A Billie Holiday Songbook
When classical pianist Lara Downes was 8 years old, she wrote in her diary that her favorite song was Billie Holiday’s “I Cover the Waterfront." Ever since, says Downes, she has been enthralled with “the distinctive qualities of mood and phrasing, line and color” heard in Holiday’s singing. Now, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Billie Holiday’s birth, Lara Downes offers A Billie Holiday Songbook, a deeply personal tribute to an icon of American music (Steinway & Sons Records) set for release April 27th.
With radiant sensitivity and timeless intimacy, Downes performs the songs forever associated with Lady Day’s legendary interpretations— drawing on her own classically-trained background and infusing it with a jazz sensibility to honor the American tradition of music “beyond category”, in the words of the great Duke Ellington.
Downes grew up listening to Holiday’s recordings with her father, who was born and raised in Harlem only blocks from the iconic jazz clubs where Lady Day was a star presence in the 1930s and ‘40s. Trained in the conservatories of San Francisco, Paris, Vienna and New York, Downes acknowledges that Holiday’s singing has been a lifelong influence. “As a musician, I learned from Billie Holiday to make something completely personal when you make music,” she says. “Something that is completely your own - maybe something unexpected, something indefinable, perhaps complicated, but beautiful. To take a chance. As the song says: But beautiful to take a chance, and if you fall, you fall. And I’m thinking I wouldn’t mind at all.”
“Loving attention to mood and color.” —The New York Times
“A unique blend of musicianship and showmanship.” —NPR
“A balletic keyboard reverie, rendered with nuance and drama.” —Washington Post