Jacques Loussier (Angers, France, 26 October 1934 – 5 March 2019) was a French pianist and composer. He was well known for his jazz interpretations in trio formation of many of Johann Sebastian Bach's works, such as in the Goldberg Variations.
Loussier started piano lessons aged ten, in Angers, and after three months he encountered his first J. S. Bach – the little G-minor Prelude. It was a piece he fell in love with, he has said, and he played it on 'tens, hundreds of times', sometimes adding a note, missing another, and so changing a bit the spirit of the music. He developed quickly and at 13½, was taken to Paris to meet one of France's leading pianists, Yves Nat. Every three months he went to Paris playing the music Nat wanted him to play, receiving advice, and then another programme for three months later to come back to play. He began composing music while studying at the Conservatoire National Musique, having moved then to Paris, under Nat, from the age of 16.
After six years' study, he left to travel the world, where he experienced sounds of the Middle East, Latin America, and Cuba, where he spent one year.
In 1959 he formed the Jacques Loussier Trio with string bass player Pierre Michelot who had previously played with Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France, and percussionist Christian Garros. They used Bach's compositions as a base for jazz improvisation and had many live appearances, tours, and concerts, as well as a number of recordings. Originally the trio recorded for Decca Records but in 1973 changed to Philips/Phonogram. The trio sold over six million albums in 15 years. Their most famous recording is "Air on the G String" which was used for the Hamlet cigar advertisements in the UK for over 35 years.
Beginning with The Happy Sixties in 1963, Loussier composed soundtracks for over 67 films, made for television films, and television series. These included the scores for the films Heaven on One's Head (1965), Living It Up (1966), The Killing Game (1967), Dark of the Sun (1968), Monique (1970) and The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1980), the theme tune for the popular 1960s French TV series Thierry La Fronde, and the original sign-on music for La 3e chaîne, the predecessor television channel to France 3.
In 1978, the trio broke up, and Loussier set up his own recording studio, Studio Miraval, in Provence, where he worked on compositions for acoustic and electric instruments. He also worked with musicians like Pink Floyd, Elton John, Sting, and Yes. Allegedly, parts of Pink Floyd's album The Wall were recorded at his studio.
In 1985 (300 years after Bach's birth), Loussier reformed the Jacques Loussier Trio with two new partners, percussionist André Arpino and double bassist Vincent Charbonnier. The bassist Benoit Dunoyer De Segonzac has also performed in the trio, replacing Charbonnier (whose left hand was affected following a stroke, resulting in his being unable to continue to play the bass) on a number of albums and concerts from at least as early as 1998 (on the album Satie: Gymnopédies Gnossiennes). More recent recordings included interpretations of compositions by Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Antonio Vivaldi, and Robert Schumann. A 2005 recording entitled Take Bach, made by the trio along with the Pekinel sisters, features adaptations of Bach's concertos for two and three pianos.
In March 2002, Loussier filed a $10 million lawsuit against rapper Eminem and The Marshall Mathers LP executive producer Dr. Dre, claiming that the beat for the track "Kill You" was stolen from his composition "Pulsion". He demanded that all sales of the album be halted and any remaining copies destroyed. The case was settled out of court.
Loussier died on 5 March 2019 at the age of 84.