Cover Story [Issue
CD Motema )
to Lynne Arriale on the ONE WAY CD 10
number 17 on the Billboard charts in February 2003, claiming a #1 spot
on the Radio Jazz Charts and heading up the Top 10 Best Jazz CDs of 2003 as
selected by UPI, pianist Lynne Arriale and her trio return with some zesty originals
and classy covers in fine jazz fashion.
Even though this
album has six originals, more than any other of her past recordings, her other
albums were just as personal, says Arriale. I wouldnt
put a song on unless I feel very deeply about it. As a result, Arriale
and band-mates Jay Anderson and Steve Davis, on bass and drums respectively,
produce emotionally stimulating music ranging from the Beatles Come
Together to her piano presentation of her Home.
Arriales trio evokes a rawness comparable to that captured by the likes
of The Chick Corea New Trio. Just as Corea, Avishai Cohen (bass) and Jeff Ballard
(drums) elicited chordal clarity on Past, Present and Futures in 2001.
Arriale and Co. serve up a similar ambient openness with crisp bass lines, carefully
placed drum surges, and sweeping sonata scales.
Just like with any relationship, Arriales group sound stems from being
together, playing together, and being on the road together. Invariably, more
trust comes out of their shared tonal lexicon. Their common lyrical understanding
has allowed a shared language to deepen over the years, says Arriale.
It gives us the freedom to go anywhere with the music.
Having no exposure to jazz growing up, Arriale came to jazz on a whim. While
finishing up her Masters degree in classical music, she decided to listen to
jazz in response to a passing thought. She quickly learned that jazz entailed
playing a melody and then improvising over the chord changes. Her left hand
remained more or less the same while creating an entirely new melody with the
right. Jazz is composition and performance at once, discerns Arriale.
I believe most composers sit at the piano and write a phrase at a time.
As playing jazz requires impromptu composition in every concert, Arriale likens
practicing to learning to speak a foreign language. If, for example, one is
learning French as a native English speaker, he must conjugate verbs over
and over, imitating French speakers to get the dialect, the inflection of each
word. In the same way that one tries to construct sentences that make
sense in language learning, the jazz musician is set with a similar task when
trying to deliver a solo. Classic standards written by Gershwin or Cole Porter
often serve as vehicles for improvisation, but Arriale embraces a much broader
definition of the standard. To me, there are no boundaries or strict rules
for choosing melodies, says Arriale. One should not be limited to
the Great American Songbook. Our scope is very wide.
In her piano playing past, Arriale often employed transcription to familiarize
herself with the language. She imitated and emulated the inflections of Bud
Powell, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk. In so doing, she strengthened both
her technique and control of her instrument. Now, she articulates her own musical
ideas in heartfelt, compelling arrangements of notes. While transcription is
no longer a part of her practice regimen, she still loves listening to pianist
Keith Jarrett, her great friend and mentor Richie Beirach, and Herbie Hancock.
Jarretts whole approach is so melodic, says Arriale. One
melody leads so organically to the next. He never repeats himself - so natural
When taking a popular tune, Arriale remains aware of the need to select melodies
that are compelling when lyrics are absent. She asks, If someone had never
heard the tune before, is it still compelling? Does the melody hold up under
scrutiny and repeated listening? After determining that a particular arrangement
of notes has a universal appeal, she is then able to connect well with her audience.
By choosing and writing strong melodies, Arriale uses music to express
the widest range of human emotion - tenderness, passion, anger, humor - all
kinds of different nuisances. Thats our job, she says.
Finding a great melody requires hearing an intangible quality that makes
it a memorable configuration of notes, remarks Arriale. An unforgettable
melody permits a superlative first impression. By playing melodies with much
heart and emotion, Arriale makes an imprint on our collective consciousness.
I try to pull the listener in and reach them, she says. After
playing an opening sentence, I decide what needs to come next by asking, Whats
the most obvious thing to come next? I look for the intangible quality
that keeps me naturally involved, much like writing a poem or short story.
Arriale tells stories without words by first producing rhythmic, melodic ideas
and then providing an answer to them. Arriale mentions Beethovens fifth
Symphony as a clear example of telling a story through music. After hes
[Beethoven] got everyones attention with the opening phrase, he extends
the same rhythmic configuration and continues to use it throughout the entire
piece, instructs Arriale. In playing jazz, you are hooking the listener
to a motive, the ear goes with that and the listeners attention is kept
by developing the idea. In the same way an author aims to keep his or
her reader enthralled over the course of a novel, Arriale plays to keep her
audience engaged all throughout the album.
As Arriale plays through her personal emotions, she gently nurtures the emotions
of her audiences. On 9/11, I was tremendously moved, shocked, horrified
as we all were, sighs Arriale. On her penultimate musical outing, she
responded with title track Arise - a pianistic window on the emotional
responses in her head. She thought, Look what people are doing to help
each other in a time of crisis. To put anothers life before ones
own is an act of the most profound love, generosity, and heroism. Individuals
ability to look beyond themselves, work together, and rise out of devastation
came out of her playing. Similarly, Arriales residence in Nashville is
illustrated by Home, the first original on Come Together.
Arriales hope is that the tune conjures personal feelings of home for
the listeners. Her personal inspiration came from the deep appreciation of being
home after spending so much time on the road. Its the deer that come to
her window - the mother and her baby doe. It came out of sticks in her backyard
that are now fruit trees, including Japanese apple pears, peaches, and plums.
It is her rasberry bushes and her five cats sitting in the window, a feeling
where she is home in a pacifying place of trees and wildlife.
Additionally, she releases a feeling of New Orleans on John Lennon and Paul
McCartneys Come Together [on the OW CD] - a calypso that shifts
between 4/4 and 6/4 meters, a sassy samba on Braziliana, passion
and heat in a loose rubato setting on Flamenco, an Aaron Copeland-styled
Sunburst, and a semi-Brazilian current on Sea and Sand.
Her eloquent song and note selection reflect the ultimate freedom of expression
and freedom in making musical choices, says Arriale.
Arriales motives at the piano have phrases sprout from initial ideas.
To do so with seamless ease, she mentions the importance of honing ones
craft. As a teacher, Arriale is adamant about having her students fine-tune
the basics. By making sure they perfect their exercises, Arriale enables her
students ability to share their individual emotions just as she does.
She has them sing lines to get their minds engaged and even play solos restricted
to the 1, 3 and 5 of the chords. Arriale finds this helps them naturally
hit the right note at the right time when they let go of the exercise and just
As a teacher and musician, Arriale brings a sense of focus and strength of mind
to the table. Her musical clarity is both equaled and supported by band-mates
Steve Davis and Jay Anderson. After playing together for 11 years, Arriale comments,
Steve can hear so far beyond the drum set. His incredibly creative palette
and ultimate spontaneity let the music go where it needs to go. Likewise,
bassist Jay Andersons intuitive, melodic and lyrical playing
completes their little music family on the road.
There are many implications of Come Together. Every place we go,
the trio and audience are engaged in music and sound. I love to reach an audience,
smiles Arriale. We invite the listener on a journey and give them a feeling
of what improvisation is right away. In a setting of social and cultural
divisions, Arriales message to come together comes through loud and clear.
to (Lynne Arriale) on the ONE WAY CD