At her Jazz Showcase debut a year and a half ago, Lynne Arriale hand delivered to a Chicago audience the same news that her 2000 disc, Live at Montreux, and a flood of flattering notices in the international press had just telegraphed to the world: she's created a strong-willed, willowy-voiced piano persona, the result of a decade's evolution, that puts her on the shortlist of today's noteworthy jazz keyboardists. The Milwaukee-born Arriale, who moved to southern Indiana in 1999 after spending much of her career in New York, fills every tune with a dense concentration of event--as a reference point I'd suggest the music of Fred Hersch, not because she sounds like him but because she employs similar techniques to her own ends. Like Hersch, she can spin a universe of textures out of single-note right-hand lines; she seems to measure and weigh each gesture, much as a gifted Shakespearean actress inflects each syllable to convey a richness of thought and meaning barely conceivable to most performers. Her imaginative chord voicings don't call attention to their cleverness, but rather bubble up naturally from her deep knowledge of music theory, which makes even her sketchiest harmonizations sound exactly right. And also like Hersch, Arriale uses unexpected arrangements to redeem equally unexpected material: on her newest disc, Inspiration, released this week on TCB, she transplants West Side Story's "America" from Spanish Harlem to the Caribbean, infusing it with dark new harmonies and a whiff of calypso rhythms; later she and longtime drummer Steve Davis use a shuffle-march groove to transform the moody 60s hymn "Feelin' Good" into a soaring, kaleidoscopic trip. As usual, Arriale makes room for the jazz canon too, including tunes by Monk, Corea, Jarrett, and Ellington--whose jaunty "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" here rides a slow reggae lope, neatly gainsaying the spirit of its title. Arriale's last visit was a one-night stand with Chicago bassist Kelly Sill filling out her trio; for this four-night gig she'll be joined by Jay Anderson on bass, replicating the exquisitely knit lineup on Inspiration and Montreux. Thursday, February 7, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, February 8 and 9, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, February 10, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.