World-renowned jazz pianist Lynne Arriale comes home with a new album celebrating social and political heroes

Lynne Arriale has traveled a long ways since she left her hometown of Milwaukee. When she returns to Wisconsin for concerts in Madison and Milwaukee, it will be as a brilliantly mature pianist and composer whose music has grown and evolved into something profoundly attuned to social and political conditions of our time.

The Lynne Arriale Trio, with John Christensen on bass and Mitch Shiner on drums, will perform Saturday, April 2 at Café CODA, 1224 Williamson St., in Madison, at 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 per show. For information, visit

Then, the trio performs in Milwaukee on Sunday, April 3 at The Jazz Estate, 2423 N. Murray Ave., at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20-$27. For information, visit

Finally, Arriale will perform a master class on Monday, April 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Helen Bader Recital Hall, of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N Prospect Ave, Milwaukee. The class is free and open to the public.  For more information, visit  or

Always a fabulous musician, since winning the 1993 international great American jazz piano competition, she has come to realize the confluence of art and life, for its better and worse.

But before addressing her mature artistry further, I’ll suggest it’s probably too easy for those from a musician’s hometown to always think of her as “our musical daughter,” and never realize the scope of the artist’s accomplishments and acclaim. Jazz Police’s declaration of her as “the Poet Laureate of her generation” may sound a tad high-falutin’ for hometown folk. Yet, in a still culturally under-recognized city, we might take pride in a native’s success where we can get it. Arriale’s growth derives from her talent and drive, and the vast reach of her world-wide touring, recording and educating experience, accompanied by consistent acclaim.

Her full biography is rather dizzying. Awards and jazz chart-topping among her previous 15 albums aside, one of Arriale’s most distinctive honors was to be the only woman among a gaggle of ten all-star pianists in a tour of Japan titled “100 Golden Fingers,” which included Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Harold Mabern, Monty Alexander, Roger Kellaway, Junior Mance and Ray Bryant.  It’s doubtful that a larger aggregate of distinguished mainstream jazz piano masters has ever toured together. Her musical collaborators include Randy Brecker, George Mraz, Benny Golson, Rufus Reid, Larry Coryell, and Marian McPartland.

Nor has it been all about Arriale the artist; this comparably dedicated educator was the first woman accorded a cover story for the magazine JazzEd. She has conducted master classes and clinics internationally throughout the US, UK, Europe, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. She’s also Professor of Jazz Studies and Director of Small Ensembles at The University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Nevertheless, as much as any pianist of her generation, Arriale has dedicated herself to the distinctive art form of the jazz piano trio, as the late Bill Evans and company came to define it. As demonstrated in her new album The Lights Are Always On, she continues developing her synchronistic relationship with bassist Jasper Somsen, and drummer E.J. Strickland, one of my favorite percussionists of his generation. Yet, like most dedicated touring professional jazz musicians not named Keith Jarrett, she’s also an ace at working with local trio mates, as she’ll do in Wisconsin.

None of which, is to say that, on her own, she’s averse to sometimes enhancing the purity of the trio form. This was evident in stunning fashion in her magnificent previous album Chimes of Freedom. As I wrote at the time, “The title song, by Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon’s ‘American Song,’ both sung by K.J. Denhert, tenderly render portraits of humanity.”

Lynne Arriale. Courtesy JazzTimes

Arriale’s finely attuned and powerful playing and arrangements eloquently expanded upon the implications of those verses by two of our nation’s supreme songwriters.  Arriale increasingly reached musical and expressive inroads into the essence of the American experience, in all of its joy and suffering, celebration and loss.

Her new album furthers that quest, while asserting her own vision by composing all the music. The Lights Are Always On is a suite of compositions that reflect the world-wide, life-changing events of the past two years. Several of the pieces nominally honor heroes around the world, including “those who served as caregivers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic and as defenders of democracy,” amid the crisis of the last five years, and the Jan. 6 Capitol mob insurrection.

In the liner notes, Arriale explains the pointed and poignant meaning behind the title tune:

“This collection was inspired by the doctor and all front-line health care workers,” she says. “For me, Dr. (Prakash) Gada, (an esophageal and robotic surgeon in Tacoma, Washington) crystallized the workers’ sense of mission during
this extraordinarily challenging time. He said, ‘Here I am back at work after
COVID…I fled Kuwait after the invasion. No matter what happens, no one works
at home. The lights are always on. Babies are being born; bones are being set.
This hospital, this profession…we are in a league of our own; we’ll take care of you,
I promise. I stand next to the most fearless people I have ever seen.’ ”

The title tune coveys care and tenderness in Arriale’s delicate yet forthright phrasing and, as the piece develops into rising phrases and searching tonalities, a measure of dedication and courage, and the “better angels of our nature,” which she still believes in.  The tune is brief, as in a dedication.

The album opener “March On,” evokes dogged determination in a steady sequence of  minor Tyner-esque chording, as in the steady, tireless dedication of protest marchers for justice in America and worldwide. “notably in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and those marching to protest the murder of George Floyd.” writes album annotator Lawrence Abrams.

Similarly spirited, “Sisters” is a feel-good, gospel-tinged aria for the advancement of women’s rights and equality, an anthemic statement of full-throated chords, octaves, and shining linear pronouncements, all riding Strickland’s groove-splashing cymbals.

Honor” alludes to Col. Alexander Vindman’s extraordinary courage and righteousness as a witness addressing the impeachment hearings “regarding Donald Trump’s scheme to withhold congressionally approved foreign aid to Ukraine, and thereby extort from that country a sham investigation of Trump’s rivals,” Abrams writes.

Somson’s bass solo seems to evoke the National Security expert’s very personal dedication to his father, who led him to emigrate from Russia forty years ago. Vindman’s story is all the more pointed amid the current Russian attack on Ukraine, after Trump’s weird “bromance” with Vladimir Putin. We know too, that Vindman was fired by Trump for his honesty.

Here and throughout the album, Arriale’s soloing is concise and emotionally to the point, as a performing composer, never lapsing into mere virtuosic display.

“Into the Breach” addresses the Capitol Police who braved the Jan. 6 mob trying to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidency win. Arriale doesn’t try to dramatically evoke the chaos, rather again focusing on the heroes, and the sense of dedicated bravery. Her chords and phrases halfway through reach into the upper register, suggesting rising blood pressure and stress. Again, a bass solo allows for thoughtful breathing room, while sustaining the urgency. “Into the Breach” conveys a grave almost Zen-like serenity, which may engender such courage, in the face of overwhelming danger.

The album also features “The Notorious RBG,” a dedication to the pioneering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Especially memorable is the penultimate tune “Walk in My Shoes,” dedicated to the late Rep. John Lewis. The fairly chromatic dissonance of the chording conveys a masculine righteousness, steely passion and dignity — the essence of the spirit of this bloodied demonstrator in the Civil Rights era in the racist South, followed by a distinguished career as an eloquent firebrand for justice in Congress. I even like the way the tune fades out at the end, as if, even in Lewis’ passing, his spirit may come back, around the bend someday, in some form.



Milwaukee Jazz Institute will stage a concert to benefit a new scholarship for women jazz musicians

Saxophonist Juli Wood and vocalist-accordionist Robin Pluer will be among the performers Sunday at the Pat Petry Scholarship Concert at the Jan Serr Studio. Courtesy

The Pat Petry Celebration Concert will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. this Sunday, March 27 in the Jan Serr Studio, in the Kenilworth Building, one of the city’s newest event venues, at 2155 N. Prospect Avenue, in Milwaukee.

Though most of the Milwaukee Jazz Institute’s more visible musicians are male, things are changing. The aggregation understands its “motherlode” roots as a strong independent music organization, growing notably with the city’s modern history of women musicians. Those include singers Jessie Hauck, Penny Goodwin, Adekola Adedapo, Donna Woodall, Marcya Daneille, and vocalist-accordionist Robin Pluer. There’s also pianists Lynne Arriale, Martha Artis, pianist-organist Beverly Pitts, violinist Sonya Robinson, the duo Mrs. Fun, and saxophonist Juli Wood, among others. 1 The Institute’s co-founder and managing director is also a woman, Erin Davis.

The late jazz singer Jessie Hauck with Manty Ellis on guitar and Berkeley Fudge on tenor sax. Courtesy “Milwaukee Jazz” by Joey Grihalva 

Milwaukee organist and pianist Beverly Pitts. Courtesy Wisconsin Black History Museum/Facebook

 Then there was one Marilyn “Pat” Petry, a patron extraordinaire, during the star jazz student heyday in the 1980’s, when young Wisconsinites emerged with national reputations, including Arriale, multiple Grammy-winner Brian Lynch, David Hazeltine, Gerald Cannon, Carl Allen, and others.

So, time has come to honor that legacy, and the MJI’s ongoing one, for the sake of Women’s History Month – in Milwaukee. The Institute has founded a scholarship for aspiring women jazz musicians in Pat Petry’s name, and will present a two-day fund-raiser event, both live and virtual. 

. The Pat Petry Celebration Concert will include members of the all-star jazz sextet We Six: trumpeter Eric Jacobson, pianist Mark Davis, guitarist Paul Silbergleit, and drummer Dave Bayles. Other featured performers include vocalists Adekola Adedapo and Marcya Daneille, vocalist-accordionist Robin Pluer, bassist Clay Schaub, saxophonist Juli Wood, Mrs. Fun (keyboardist-vocalist Connie Grauer and drummer Kim Zick) and drummer Bob Ellicson’s trio.

Then, on Monday, March 28, the Institute aims for a broader educational celebration as guitarist and jazz historian Silbergleit hosts an online program Women in Jazz: Keys & Frets. This will investigate women jazz keyboardist, pianists, and guitarists in jazz history.

The late Marilyn “Pat” Petry, with her son Daniel Petry, attending the grand opening of the Jan Serr Studio, which will be the site of the Pat Petry Celebration Concert on Sunday. The event is a fundraiser for a scholarship, in her name, for aspiring women jazz musicians. Photo courtesy Daniel Petry

None of this would’ve happened but for the legacy left by Pat Petry, a woman who supported jazz with a zealous heart and, in her distinctive way, might be compared to Lorraine Gordon of Village Vanguard fame, or Pannonica de Koengiswarter, Thelonious Monk’s longtime patron.

She grew up in Menomonee Falls, married and raised three sons on a dairy farm. In the 1970s she began travel industry work, which allowed her to travel to favorite cities, New York, Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and New Orleans, while deeply cultivating her appreciation of jazz, according to her son, Daniel Petry, a scholarship organizer.

From the 1980’s until 2021, Pat Petry was a fixture at Milwaukee’s jazz clubs. In the crucial 1980’s, she friended the jazz faculty and students of the Conservatory, including Berkeley Fudge, Manty Ellis, David Hazeltine, Brian Lynch, Mark Davis, Juli Wood, Adekola Adedapo, Dave Bayles, Paul Silbergleit, and many others. As a travel consultant, she arranged trips for Lynch to and from New York and around the United States. She also worked with Wood on her many performance trips to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in the late 1980s and 1990s.

In the 1980s and 1990’s, Pat shared a weekend apartment in New York and regularly attended theatre, then haunted jazz clubs at night, rubbing shoulders with many jazz legends.

Pat’s other passion included Women’s Rights, as a volunteer for many organizations, including Sojourner Peace Center.

Pat died on July 11, 2021. “Thus, the Pat Petry Jazz Scholarship was established by family and friends as a tribute to Pat’s passions for jazz, young women and education,“ Petry said.

For tickets and information, visit: Jazz benefit information


This article was previously published in The Shepherd Express, here: Shepherd Express article on jazz benefit

1 See forthcoming Culture Currents post about Lynne Arriale


Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane fly into a storm of American discord

The situation begins to deteriorate quickly during a Jefferson Airplane performance which preluded the death of five people later at the infamous Altamont Motor Speedway concert. Photos courtesy The New Yorker
I just came across this video of Jefferson Airplane, which is illuminating and demonstrative in two contrary ways. The first is how it shows that Jack Casady is, in my book, the greatest bass player in rock history (as an ensemble player he exceeds Jack Bruce, perhaps a better improviser). It still amazes me how the propulsive power and rhythmic acumen of Casady’s playing drives this group. I think you can also feel how his bass intoxicates festivalgoers, along with some illicit drugs. His decades-long synchronicity with lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen is also evident (The two went on to form the longer-lasing blues-roots duo Hot Tuna.) 1
The photos above of Altamont suggest how extraordinary these
live outdoor events had become for my generation, especially in that critical year of 1969. I make that claim with deeply bittersweet sentiment. That’s because the second demonstration of the video is the sad and ugly one. 
This was at the Altamont Motor Speedway Free Festival, which later in the evening turned deadly when Hells Angels killed at least one audience member during the Rolling Stones performance. 2
Here we see things not quite that bad. But the photo at top reveals a perhaps under-discussed aspect of the problem. The San Francisco-based Airplane, which had gained enormous popularity in the previous couple years, is on a small bandstand barely above ground level, and easily accessible by members of a crowd of stimulated young people that probably numbered several hundred thousand.
What we have here is a failure to plan properly. I mean this was a  “free” festival, for crying out loud. Other concert planners had been overwhelmed by the gargantuan crowd in rural Woodstock ,a short time earlier, so something should have been anticipated, even if Woodstock was a truly peaceful event.
In the video we see particularly the efforts of the band’s lead singer Grace Slick (and singer-guitarist Paul Kantner) in trying to get things under control, in her own inimitable way. Slick cajoles for calm, then points out that, even though Hells Angels are the heavies here, people in the audience are also getting out of hand by scrambling on stage.
It was the prelude to what many declared the death of the ideals of the Woodstock generation. Those ideals hardly died that night, but they began to face up to the harsh realities of life in America, as it teetered like a troubled neurotic between the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit complacencies of the 1950s and the Revolutionary 1960s. The Airplane, of course, embraced the later ethos with almost desperate heroism in their album Volunteers, released only months after Altamont. There’s very telling irony in the song the band was playing in this video: “The Other Side of this Life.”
Because of the visible violence, the video is age-restricted:

Here’s the YouTube clip:


  1. For those further interested in this era from the viewpoint of a key Jefferson Airplane musician, Kaukonen’s engaging recent autobiography Been So Long is worthwhile.

2 For a far more in-depth piece on this event here’s an essay from The New Yorker: