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Louis Durra

"I think I'm done with choices based on anything other than pure sound."

Pianist Louis Durra will be playing with his trio at the Jazz Bar on Chambers Street 1-2 every afternoon starting Monday August 8th. The set will feature trio jazz on unusual repertoire. A long stint at a Los Angeles nightclub has allowed Louis to investigate the jazz potential of newer songs. "We play a lot of music a jazz trio has no business playing" -- Hip-hop, Mexican Corridos, Reggae, Bob Dylan, Radiohead. "We're not playing like a cover band. As jazz musicians, we're pushing for artistic, surprising interpretation. It's been a fun ride for ourselves and for our audiences."


Louis comes to Scotland with two EPs of his recent work - including jazz on songs by Radiohead, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Feist. Longtime bandmates drummer Jerry Kalaf and bassist Larry Steen round out the trio. "All I Really Want" (Alanis Morissette) features the work of NYC turntablist Rob Swift. Their new work is well documented on YouTube.

His earlier, mainstream jazz CDs, WHAT WE HAVE, DREAMING and the dvd CAUGHT!, show why he is so widely respected and his music so enjoyed. A session pianist, Louis is clearly comfortable in the studio. WHAT WE HAVE teams the pianist with Kalaf, either Lutz, Genova or Larry Steen on bass and occasionally guitarist Larry Koonse and percussionist Scott Breadman. Louis performs Miles Davis’ “Solar” plus ten of his originals including the jazz waltz “Out On The Steps,” the melodic “For Joe” (which recalls Oscar Peterson a little), the explorative “Magellanic Clouds,” and the catchy “How To Pack A Suitcase.” In addition, the CAUGHT! DVD allows one to both see and hear Louis Durra at his best with Kalaf and Steen.


Louis has developed a painstaking way of immersing in the music he performs:

"I'm mostly acquiring repertoire from recordings of groups, focusing on the vocals. I much prefer absorbing music from recordings. There are too many subtle notes-and-rhythms choices great vocalists make, that are really part of the interest of the song for me. I also want to convey, or at least be aware of, the sounds of great ensembles. I do a lot to personalize a song, but I'd rather start from the Beatles' recording, than from someone else's interpretation of what happened."

"I usually sit in bed and transcribe with pencil and manuscript, one hand cueing playback on a laptop. Transcribing itself has become a form of practice for me. It's great ear-training, and I'm writing out the notes and rhythms of great performers."

"As a bandleader, I give a lot of thought to what to put in a chart for musicians. I work on conveying musical direction organically through listening and playing rather than words or notation. I often give the musicians the melodies written in detail, but only simple chord symbols and very few written lines for drums and bass. I'd rather let listening and interaction lead us. Often I'm "leading upside down" -- playing the melody so as to make the cymbals sound good, or voicing in ways flattering to the bass. One of the results has been great loyalty from the musicians."

"Many jazz musicians have been brought to a halt by tunes that spend a lot of time on just a couple of chords. I do a lot of "solo and melody at the same time" - cutting back and forth between as-written and new lines, playing the melody with counter-lines or passing voicings. I consider ideas outside the key a good deal. Many of the logical "jazz reharms" are not of interest for me because they've been around for decades... I'm currently drawn to having one or more voices travel outside of the key smoothly or abruptly to create interest, emotion. I see unexplored possibilities for being true to the song and being creative at the same time. These things have developed based on what I'm hearing in the songs themselves, not arrived at theoretically. I think I'm done with choices based on anything other than pure sound."


Throughout his productive career, pianist Louis Durra has been involved in many aspects of making music. Due to his impeccable musicianship and versatility, Louis can fit into nearly any genre, as he showed during a six-year stint with Beefheart guitarist Moris Tepper. In previous years, Louis worked a sound editor for film, composed for theatre and for documentaries, and toured with Jazz Tap Ensemble.
Louis Durra brings all of these experiences to his jazz performances, transforming unlikely pop songs into creative music, introducing his colorful originals or coming up with a fresh slant on interpreting the standards. While he names Stan Getz, Bill Evans and Jimmy Rowles as being among his many inspirations, he has an original style within jazz’s modern mainstream. He swings with his own brand of soul yet can also play fairly ‘free’, constantly stretching himself both in his spontaneous flights and in his compositions.

"I feel very lucky to be able to play music all the time.” Music lovers and jazz fans are also very fortunate; for Louis Durra’s music, in addition to its creativity and freshness, is just plain fun.