Lara Downes launches The Artist Sessions at Yoshi's Jazz Bar

Iconic San Francisco venue the location for Downes’s series, blending musical innovation with intriguing themes and fascinating conversation (and cocktails)

California-based Lara Downes, widely acknowledged as a trailblazer in reinventing the solo and chamber piano show, will present the first in her new concert series, The Artist Sessions at the famous Yoshi’s Jazz Bar in San Francisco. The monthly series will present some of the world’s leading classical musicians in innovative contexts – in short, every concert will have its ‘story’.

First up is Lara herself, alongside guests the San Francisco Quartet and Rik Malone, host of Classical KDFC. The evening will be based around music of exile and Lara’s own new album Exiles Café (on the Steinway label) – the album was CD of the Week simultaneously on WQXR and WFMT and shortly afterwards on Classical KDFC. Downes is in the midst of an extensive North America tour of Exiles Café.

Also on the bill for later in the series are Christopher O’Riley (May 29), Gabriel Kahane (Sept 5), Awadagin Pratt (Oct 17), Theo Bleckmann (Nov 14), Dan Tepfer with Lara Downes (Dec 12), Alexandre Da Costa (Jan 16), Mohammed Fairouz (Feb 27), Zuill Bailey with Lara Downes (March 11), Anthony de Mare (March 25) and Matt Haimovitz (April 6). Cocktails and supper will be offered during the performances, as will full dinners in the adjacent award-winning new-style Japanese restaurant.

Yoshi's is one of the foremost venues for music in the US. Originally opened by Yoshie Akiba, her husband Kaz Kajimura, and chef Hiroyuki Hori as a restaurant, it soon became as well-known for its jazz. What started as a sideline to entertain diners became the main event. Showcasing international stars such as Chick Corea, Ravi Coltrane and Jack DeJohnette, it has become a pacesetter on the US jazz scene. The Artist Sessions aims to do the same from the classical music standpoint for Yoshi's San Francisco.

Watch Lara Downes's new music video, Tango from the Exiles Cafe - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy7-CJmtN3U

Notes for Editors

* Lara Downes is long-term Artist In Residence at the prestigious Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at University of California Davis. Her performances have been heard on NPR's "Performance Today", WNYC's "New Sounds", All Classical FM, WFMT Chicago and WBGO's "Jazz Set" among others

* Her recordings have been called, variously, "magical" (NPR), "addicting" (The Huffington Post) and "something magnificent and different" (Sequenza 21)

* She has worked with many fellow leading American artists, among them Lara St John, Zuill Bailey and Rachel Barton Pine. Commissions for Downes have come from Aaron Jay Kernis, David Sanford and Benny Goson among others, while she has enjoyed cross-genre collaborations with the likes of former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove, choreographer David Grenke, video artist Glenda Drew and director/chorographer Mindy Cooper.

* Downes is the Founder and President of the 88 KEYS Foundation, a non-profit organisation that fosters opportunities for music experiences and learning in America's public schools, and she nurtures next-generation musicians as curator of the Young Artists program at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at University of California Davis. Lara Downes is a Steinway Artist.