Quotes, Press, Bio

“Street sounds, comedians, dialog in film and theater — have all influenced how I hear music …” says Durra.

  • “Splendid”  – LA Times
  • “Shimmering life” – Backstage West
  • “Captivating” – LA Weekly

Pianist Louis Durra has traveled a sharp-angled creative path: experimental theatre in Iceland and Scotland, tours with (ex-Captain Beefheart) guitarist Moris Tepper, sound effects for kickboxing movies, dance tours in Russia and Kazakhstan.

“…Durra’s improvisations unfold with magnificent elegance…the love child of Ramsey Lewis and Thelonious Monk”
(The Herald Scotland, five stars)

As an adult, Louis discovered that he’d been adopted. Soon afterward came the news that his birth-father had played reeds for Gil Evans Orchestra, Lou Reed, Cornell Dupree, and been part of the eclectic band The Insect Trust. The jazz pedigree was the only un-surprising part of this story.

“ an articulate and melodic player…rewardingly creative”
(The Scotsman, four stars)

Louis listened to music incessantly from age three. According to his mother, Louis taught himself to read from record labels. The family attended many concerts during several months residence in London. His first music teacher was chamber composer Melanie Daiken, followed by classes at San Francisco Conservatory. Hearing John Coltrane on the radio as a teen was a life-changing experience. Soon he was playing in school ensembles, hearing live jazz. Louis began playing professionally with groups and music directing for theater during high school. The next few years were spent at Berklee College Of Music with a subsequent move to Los Angeles.

“Takes the piano trio into a superbly subtle space where he can surprise and delight… his choice of material seems specifically designed for seduction.” (The Herald Scotland)

In Los Angeles Louis worked in many genres, including a six-year stint with ex-Beefheart guitarist Moris Tepper. Louis worked as a film sound editor, composed for theatre and documentaries, and toured with Jazz Tap Ensemble. Over the years he recorded two mainstream jazz trio albums, recording standards on ‘Dreaming’, and composing new improviser-friendly jazz for ‘What We Have’.

His decision to decline work with other artists and to concentrate on band-leading and self-initiated projects led to two years tenure at a Los Angeles nightclub, a well-received debut at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, and a track on a Radiohead Tribute CD by ESC Records, (Frankfurt, DE).

Louis has developed a painstaking way of immersing in the music he performs, mostly acquiring repertoire from recordings of groups, focusing on the vocals. “Making use of insomnia, I’ll sit up in bed, and write out music from audio with a pencil and manuscript paper. I love the subtle notes-and-rhythms choices vocalists make, and immersing in the sounds of great groups. I do a lot to personalize a song, but I like to start from a pretty detailed picture of what happened.”

“…Interesting covers well beyond the usual jazz repertoire. He generated a ringing take on Belle and Sebastian’s ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’, for instance, and the old Tears For Fears hit ‘Mad World’.”
(The Scotsman)

“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.”

“He never ceases to surprise, delight, and move me. His fluid virtuosity transcends any specific style. Five stars!”
(film composer Miriam Cutler)

“I see unexplored possibilities for creatively ‘loving and leaving’ a song — cutting back and forth between melody and other sounds, perhaps things I’ve just heard in the band or the club, perhaps lines that travel outside of the key smoothly or abruptly. There’s such variety of sounds out on the street, why not in music?”

“The things I especially like about Louis’ playing are that the silences, the rests, the empty space he places between his notes are as musical and evocative as the notes he plays! Very laid back, behind the beat player too, gives you time to meditate between notes, or do the laundry! Amazing. He plays like he’s listening, not speaking, it’s kind of surreal. And what I especially like about his playing and your singing together, is you both have that almost child-like playful wonder in your tone. There’s a delicacy in the way he swings an eighth note that mirrors the way you sing one. I think he’s the piano player for you.” (songwriter David Harris)

“…fresh chord voicings, unpredictable but logical solos…”
(LA Jazz Times)

“All these things are based on what I hear, often already hidden in the songs. I think I’m done with choices based on anything other than pure sound.”

“Herbie Hancock meets…Harpo Marx.” (guitarist Matt Aschkynazo)