The recorder quartet Flûte Alors! first tried mixing Bach and jazz during a concert at a café in Old Montreal. "We wanted the repertoire to reflect the casual atmosphere of a night out," recalled the quartet members when we reached out to them via email. "Though many people have done programs of Bach and jazz, to our knowledge it had not yet been done on recorders."
That concept is now an album called Bach 'n' Jazz, due out Feb. 17 on ATMA Classique. The four members of Flûte Alors! — Vincent Lauzer, Marie-Laurence Primeau, Alexa Raine-Wright and Caroline Tremblay — are currently touring the album, most recently in Regina, Sask., and coming up next in their hometown of Montreal.
The tracks alternate between jazz standards and organ works by Bach, all arranged for recorders. "Bach's organ music is very well-suited to recorder quartet," they explained. "The sound of an organ pipe is produced in exactly the same way as on the recorder, so a recorder quartet sounds very similar to a small organ."
They also pointed out that while Bach's four-voice harmonic writing generally adapts well to the quartet format, they sometimes have to find work-arounds.
"In the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, for example, there are several passages in the original that are one-voice solos. This doesn't make the most interesting transition to recorder quartet, so we create harmonies or countermelodies around it, or pass the solo from one recorder to the next. This creates a much more interesting and engaging interpretation for multiple voices."
The jazz tunes present different challenges and possibilities. "When performing jazz, we use an array of modern embouchure and articulation techniques to create special percussive effects," they said.
The quartet members chose their favourite jazz standards for this album, and asked Nicolas G.-Godbout to arrange them. "Though Nicolas is a trumpet player, he arranges very well for recorders, adapting his compositional style to sound completely natural for recorder quartet," reflected the members of Flûte Alors!. "Even though 'The Jogger,' by Dick Koopmans, is not a jazz standard, it is a classic in contemporary recorder music, and contains jazzy and bluesy elements. The piece also ends with a fugue, echoing the many Bach fugues featured on this album."
Bach 'n' Jazz will be released on Feb. 17. You can pre-order it on iTunes.
Watch Flûte Alors! play a Bach fugue at the Lachine canal:
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