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Interviews

Meet Lynne Arriale

By Published: October 1, 2000
I was at a college the week before. Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland
1918 - 2013
piano
was supposed to do it. It was a tour of Japan with Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
, Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
1934 - 2013
piano
, Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant
Ray Bryant
1931 - 2011
piano
, Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander
b.1944
piano
, Roger Kellaway
Roger Kellaway
Roger Kellaway
b.1939
piano
, Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern
b.1936
piano
, Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
, Junior Mance
Junior Mance
Junior Mance
b.1928
piano
and a rhythm section. The concerts were three hours long. They consisted of different configurations every day of piano, bass, and drums—forty minutes of that, then piano duos and piano trios. I played duo with Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern
Harold Mabern
b.1936
piano
, Roger Kellaway
Roger Kellaway
Roger Kellaway
b.1939
piano
, and Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
. Just to be around these great musical minds—to see night after night how they might approach the same tune in a different way. To hear Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
sit down, then hear Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander
b.1944
piano
on the same instrument—you realize how very different the piano can sound with all these different artists, depending on how they have developed their sounds. You marvel at how they hit the keys and all those things that make up the sound as well as the content of what they're playing.

Vocal aspect of jazz

I enjoy playing for singers who study with me, but accompanying singers is not something I focus on. If a song I'm playing has lyrics it definitely affects my playing of it. I like to be familiar with the lyrics and the vibe of the tune. How the lyrics fall determines how you inflect the phrase. The tendency will be not to embellish so much—to "hear" the words as if the singer were singing them. I can tell whether an instrumentalist is staying close to the lyrics.

Repertoire

I take a lot of time in deciding whether to play a tune as part of our repertoire. I could play all original music, but it's a question of what tune feels right at a particular moment and will create a color that will reach the audience in a certain way. I have no investment in playing an original. I have no idea why I'm drawn to certain tunes and not to others. We don't just play "ho-hum" standards. These are very vital tunes—we have arrangements that create whole different vibes. Sometimes I'll just remember a tune I've forgotten about for a few years. I'll hear it in my head, and go "Ohhh."

Brazilian music

When I hear it I light up. In the trio we do tunes that are Brazilian influenced, but they are not strictly Brazilian sambas. We do straight eighth tunes or open eighths which might go into more of a groove at some point.

Composition

I don't see my compositions as vehicles for blowing. I make sure the changes flow, but I want them to stand alone as compositions—the chord changes have to feel like a tune without the melody going on, and the melody has to stand alone without the chords. That's a tall order. Think of the great melodists. To create a great melody that has whatever that thing is is not an easy thing to do. The process creates almost an uncomfortable feeling. There's a heat in your body, and you want to jump out of there. You hear about musicians who wake up in the middle of the night and write down songs. There have been a few instances I was about to take a nap. I'd hear a melody, and I'd have to write it down because I knew I wouldn't remember it. But most of the time it's a conscious act. I don't usually start with the rhythm— I start with an idea. I listen to it, play it, and sing it to see if I like it. I say to myself, "How does this feel as an opening statement?" If I like it I go on. It's very subjective. I'll take it into several possibilities and write them down and let them simmer till the next day or the next week. I'll come back and say, "Hmm, that third one looks good, but the rest.... No." Occasionally I'll have the whole thing at once—for example The Dove from A Long Road Home. It's a simple, folk-like melody. I was chopping onions for a soup, I heard it, and I Quick! ran to the piano. But that doesn't happen very often.

Electronic instruments

I appreciate their value to musicians who use them to express their inner musicality, but electronic instruments don't appeal to me at all. A piano is a life force in a sense. It has a real personality to it. It's wood with a resonance, a feel. There are so many different colors available through touch.

Playing with stringsI could have an interest in playing in front of a string orchestra at some point. The big question is the arrangements. I haven't written arrangements for a large ensemble myself.

Learning to play jazz


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