Wednesday, September 1, 2010

PianoSoft Behind the Scenes: Featured Artist Sue Downs

Our resident PianoSoft insider, Cathy, is back with a profile of one of Yamaha's many wonderful PianoSoft artists, Sue Downs.

The story of my most recent encounter with Sue Downs requires some explanation. First, I live in the city of Henderson, NV. Henderson is a big city in its own right, but from my backyard, if I stand on my tiptoes, I can see the south end of the Vegas strip. Second, I'm crazy about piano tuners. From the day that man descended into our basement on Long Island to tune my white and gold speckled upright with keys so loose you could blow them down, I knew that someone who could make my piano sound so nice would be a lifelong friend.

With those two points in mind, you might imagine that I was very excited when I heard that the 2010 Piano Technician's Guild (PTG) annual convention would be held at Bally's in Las Vegas.

My good friend Greg Frank in Yamaha Piano Service invited me to the convention's closing concert, which meant it was time to get my good clothes out of the back of the closet, put my hair in something besides a pony tail, and prepare myself for a great performance from the featured pianist at the concert: Sue Downs! Simply said, she brought down the house in front of a very knowledgeable and very appreciative audience of piano professionals.

Sue is called "First Lady of the Disklavier" and with good reason. I think it's safe to say that Sue is the premier Disklavier specialist and has performed more concerts, made more videos, and made more appearances on behalf of the Disklavier than any other artist. Her playing is sublime, and as a gifted singer, she is a true double threat. It makes perfect sense that her first PianoSoft Plus Audio CD was called "First Lady of the Disklavier Sings!"

Be sure to give Sue a listen on some of her many PianoSoft albums. With more than 20 albums to her name, she's one of the most prolific Disklavier recording artists, as well as one of the most talented. Whether, you're interested in sacred music, standards, or jazz, you're certain to find a Sue Downs recording that will hit your sweet spot.

Most people probably think of Sue as a jazz pianist, which she is, but her skills are very diverse. She is equally proficient in the Classics, Gospel, Jazz – well, just about anything. Sue started her piano studies at the age of three, and her early studies focused on Classical music. She was a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute and I believe those Classical roots have their imprint on her excellent pop/jazz performances. She has flawless technique and phrasing and the magnificent feel of a seasoned jazz pianist. She is one of those players who makes it look and sound easy, but you know it’s not.

I recently had the chance to listen to her practice, and wished I could run through scales the way she can. This is just a phone photo but there she is, hard at work.

Sue’s husband Jerry often engineers her recordings and is also a fine musician. They often collaborate on projects together from their home base in Denver, Colorado.

Did I mention that she’s one of the nicest people you will ever know? Yup. That’s Sweet Sue.

- Cathy