J. Michael Short | San Antonio, TX United States | 04/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love Bach. I love piano. I love jazz. This disk is one of my most treasured musical items...along with the 3 other volumes John Lewis recorded based on Bach's The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1. Import price, but well worth the extra money. Lewis, absolutely true to the spirit of Bach, works the intricate interplay between his piano and his accompanists into a musical stream that flows from stately to swing and seamlessly back.....always sublime. I doubt there has ever been another pianist who could so beautifully suffuse Bach with a respectful jazz flavor......it is delicious, sensuous, cerebral and spiritual. Buy it. You'll be most glad you did. It is such a shame that some of the finest music recorded in the last 20 years is of such limited availablility. All four disks, Volumes 1 through 4 are well worth tracking down."
Zarathustra | Washington, DC USA | 07/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Short's review says it all: Sublime. Absolutely essential. A perfect work. And not only sublime, but Beautiful. Rare."
Bach would be proud
E. Feldman | Connecticut, USA | 09/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mr. Short is dead on. What John Lewis did for Modern Jazz with the Modern Jazz Quartet, fusing bebop, blues and art music, he has flawlessly accomplished here with his interpretation of Bach's classic, "The Well Tempered Clavier." This series of CDs by John Lewis (and friends and lovers--his wife accompanied on several albums) is my all time favorite music ever. It is one of the first CDs I purchased when I got my first CD player, and I can still remember being awed by its beauty. On some of the tracks you can hear the hammer retract when Lewis releases the key; on other tracks, you may hear him murmur as he plays. The music so personal and so touchingly beautiful, you really must hear it to comprehend. I have owned volumes 1 and 2 since their release 20 years ago, and they are still as fresh and beautiful and sensuous as the first time I heard them, even though I now know almost every keystroke. The fugues are my personal favorites, and they might have also been Maestro Lewis', although that's only a guess (he died in 2001). I find Fugue 2, 6, and 16 (my favorites) to be of enormous beauty infused with inspired jazz riffs--modern, masterful, perfectly performed, and achingly exquisite.
I do not think there could be any human being who would not be captivated by this interpretation of these beautiful pieces. I would love to see the arrangement on sheet music. This is the music that makes me feel alive and the music I hope will surround me when I die."
If You Must ...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 04/30/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... hear Bach performed on modern piano -- if you are one of those calcified troglodytes who proclaims that you 'don't like the sound of the harpsichord' -- then you might consider this recording of the Preludes and Fugues by John Lewis, the classically-trained pianist of the Modern Jazz Quartet. It has the virtue of integrity; that is, it treats the piano as a piano, and not a harpsichord wannabe. Bach's compositions do NOT employ the full resources of the modern grand piano, for the obvious reason that those resources were not available on even a double-manual harpsichord. But the harpsichord had resources that the modern piano has lost.
In any case, Lewis's Bach is suave, groovy, casual - cocktail Bach, if you will. To call it "cerebral and spiritual", as a previous reviewer has, makes no sense to my ears at all; it's exactly the opposite. Lewis also relies on 'back-up' strings for some of the preludes, making them sound quite schmaltzy at times. Don't get me wrong here! I'm not denouncing what Lewis has done. I enjoy it. He's taken 'written' music by JS Bach and conflated it with his own sensibilities as an improviser. The 'line' between composer and performer, and by implication between classical music and jazz, is a theme always worth discussing."