Though Lynne Arriale captured first prize in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 1993, it wasn't until last summer--when her trio recorded Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival (TCB)--that she showed the authority and creative fire that place her squarely in the upper echelon of younger jazz pianists. On her five previous albums Arriale had played with lush technique and lustrous tone and consistently demonstrated good taste--a little too much good taste, in fact. Her polite improvisations had no trouble getting off the ground, but they rarely soared. On the new disc, however, she's developed an ability to convey real adventure and excitement. Some of this arises from her evolution into a savvy arranger for the piano trio: to open the new record, she takes the familiar ballad "Alone Together" at a blistering speed that, along with a shadowy reharmonization of the theme, carries her solo aloft; she follows that with Monk's "Evidence," slowing the normally brisk tune down to a moderate lope to highlight the chords she extrapolates from its dense harmonies; and on "Seven Steps to Heaven" she gives her solo extra oomph by launching it with a suspenseful shift in tempo. Arriale's press agents have likened her to Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau, and while no one needs that kind of pressure, the comparisons make sense: like Mehldau and Jarrett, she belongs firmly to the lyric-romantic tradition that stems from Bill Evans, and her music succeeds to exactly the degree that it steers clear of that tradition's self-conscious, over-the-top emotionalism. Arriale celebrates the new album's release with an unusual one-night gig at the Jazz Showcase, in a trio featuring her regular drummer, Steve Davis, and Chicago bassist Kelly Sill. Monday, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.