An iconoclastic pianist whose artistry has been called “luscious, moody and dreamy” by the The New York Times and “ravishing” by Fanfare Magazine, Lara Downes takes inspiration where she finds it, to make music that is timeless and timely, starts conversations, and resonates with the world we live in.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Europe, Lara’s interest in connecting music to a wide and inclusive breadth of human experience mines her own mixed African American and Eastern European background and her peripatetic upbringing. As she has shed the stricture of genre in her view of music, the musical press has embraced her distinctive artistry: her playing has been called “ravishing” by Fanfare magazine, “luscious, moody and dreamy” by the The New York Times. Her 2015 release A Billie Holiday Songbook has been embraced by both jazz and classical critics and listeners, called “possibly the most intriguing Holiday tribute” of this centenary year by Jazz Weekly.
Lara’s most recent chart-topping release, America Again was selected by NPR as one of “10 Albums that Saved 2016”, and hailed as “a balm for a country riven by disunion” by the Boston Globe. In many ways the coming-of-age memoir of an artist who has found her own way and carved her own path through American music, the album expresses the diversity of American history and American dreams. In her own words: “ I’ve traveled all around this country and played for audiences in small towns and big cities. I’ve learned that my music is a bridge to unexpected friendships with people who come from very different versions of America than my own. There is no such thing as a typical American life, and there are millions of American stories. American music has a complicated history, full of contrasts and contradictions, just like my own, and I’ve learned that what is most beautiful about me comes down to my contradictions and contrasts.”
A trailblazer onstage and off, Lara is a laureate of the 2016 Sphinx Medal of Excellence award, recognized as a leader in expanding the reach of the arts as a performer, an entrepreneur, and a cultural visionary. She enjoys creative collaborations with artists including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola, MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens, baritone Thomas Hampson and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, and her partnerships with prominent composers span genres and generations.
Her newest recording, FOR LENNY, a Sony Classical release, celebrates the American legacy of Leonard Bernstein on the 100th anniversary of his birth. More information can be found at LaraDownes.com.