Stories » Lara Downes continues to expand her reach on 'Holes in the Sky' / ALL MUSIC

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Lara Downes continues to expand her reach on 'Holes in the Sky' / ALL MUSIC

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"The American pianist Lara Downes is known for unique programming ideas in which classical and vernacular materials mix, not so much in what is called crossover as simply representing parts of a common tradition. She has experience as a jazz pianist and is especially adept at finding pieces from the African-American classical tradition that fit multi-genre programs. Recently signed to the major Sony label (of which Portrait is an imprint), Downes continues to expand her reach. Holes in the Sky, whose title comes from a quotation from Georgia O'Keeffe ("I want real that makes holes in the sky -- I want to love as hard as I can"), is unique among Downes' releases in that among the solo piano works, from composers ranging from Florence Price to Elena Ruehr, there are songs from vocalists of various kinds. All the composers and all the vocalists are women, and Downes provides an elegant reflection on her place in this tradition in the booklet, which also contains a conversation between Downes and folk vocalist Judy Collins about Collins' contribution, her early song Albatross. This doesn't cover all the selections on the album, but it is relevant to them all: Downes finds a personal connection in each piece, and as the program proceeds, its power gathers. The piano works and song arrangements come from various places, and Downes weaves them together so that they appear as facets of a diamond. Absolutely marvelous."  - Review by James Manheim