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Meet Lynne Arriale

Craig Jolley By

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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.
Pianist Lynne Arriale served an apprenticeship in New York before striking out with her own trio in the early 90's. Her resume includes a performance at the 1998 IAJE convention and an appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. She has released six CD's to date. Live at Montreux (TCB 20252), a trio session with Steve Davis, drums and Jay Anderson, bass is just coming out (September, 2000).

Classical music background

I started playing when I was very little, but I wouldn't say I was a prodigy at all. I got a master's in classical music at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music with Rebecca Penneys. When I was growing up I didn't even know what jazz was. I listened to pop music of course—Stevie Wonder and a lot of other people. I don't know whether the pop music influenced what I'm working on now. You can't ever really draw a direct line—it just all kind of goes into the soup. The way I got interested in jazz—I did not have an epiphany of listening to a performer and say that's what I've got to do. I was literally walking down the street one day, and I just had a passing thought that I should study jazz. I did not even know what jazz was. I didn't know that it was improvising over chord changes, and that it had its own scales and voicings. It was like learning a whole new language. Unfortunately I don't have time to keep up my classical side. If I have eight hours in a day to practice I can very easily use it up working on jazz things.

Intuitive approach to music

When I started out I listened to bebop players. I loved (and still love) Cedar Walton and some of the bluesier players like Gene Harris. The last bunch of years I would say Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock. I think I gravitated toward trying to create melody from the beginning. I'm not an intellectual musician in terms of "over this chord you play this." Once I was taught the scales I kind of heard it. I don't think theoretically when I'm playing—I really just listen. When you're listening one note can follow the next, and it may not be a note in the scale, but it might take you in a different direction because the line feels like it needs to go there. I admire and have great respect for musicians who have a really solid theoretical understanding. I teach a fair amount. I find a lot of students who gravitate toward the intuitive. They know their scales and everything, but when it really comes down to it they can create really beautiful melodies that are not anything they've practiced before. They're not licks—they're in the moment. I try to cultivate that when I see it.

1993 Jacksonville Great American Jazz Piano

I submitted a tape, as did about a hundred other people. I came back from a tour and found out I was a finalist. They flew the five finalists down to Jacksonville. We rehearsed with a rhythm section and played that evening. It was interesting for a whole month to be focusing on three tunes—to go as deeply into them as I possibly could, and also to choose a repertoire that in twenty minutes would somehow create what I was looking for. There was no opportunity to start slowly and work into the set. It really had to happen with all the contrasts and different colors immediately.

Lynne Arriale Trio

In New York I played in duo, trio, and quartet settings, but the last few years I've concentrated on my trio. We travel almost seven months a year. We go to Europe at least four times a year. We go to UK once a year. We go to the West Coast and the Midwest. Here and there we add a fourth musician, and I love doing that, but most of my time is occupied with the trio. Steve Davis is my regular drummer. We love playing with Jay Anderson or Scott Colley when they're available. Steve and I have worked together in the trio for eight years, and he's helped shape the sound of the group. He's a consummate musician, a very dynamic player who can burn the house down or just whisper. He has a great feel, and he's a colorist on the instrument with many different sounds and textures.

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