Lynne Arriale Trio will perform a CD-release concert at Milwaukee’s Blu nightclub on Mother’s Day

Lynne Arriale Trio CD-release concert for Give Us These Days (Challenge Records) , with Jeff Hamann, bass, and Dave Bayless, drums  

Blu nightclub, Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13, $20 advance, $25 at the door. Contact: Blu information


Time has only deepened the shadows and glow of Lynne Arriale’s art. From her earliest days as a pianist in Milwaukee, she asserted her vision and will to become a leader in the classic jazz idiom of piano trio, and its intense spotlight. By now, we needn’t discuss how the jazz culture remained then, in the 1970s, a male-dominated realm. This has never deterred her, at least by the evidence of her performances and recordings.

Her music remains unalloyed in its crystalline brilliance. As this should imply, there are many facets to this art, the unalloyed aspect is probably the purity of her strength as an artist. As a musician, she ably encompasses a panoply of straight-ahead jazz vocabulary. Give Us These Days testifies to her balance of original composition and ingenious yet utterly appealing probings of the better compositional felicities of popular music.

So she opens the album with a clarion call of her generation, Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” a song of utter inspiration, when the songwriter watched the original Woodstock phenomenon secondhand. Still, Mitchell was moved as a songful storyteller, sensing a profound moment in time. That remains more than enough – Arriale takes firm grasp of the song’s somewhat modal cast, carving out the melody by striking powerful chords, as if the “half-a-million strong” generational tsunami drives her own witnessing. Her solo finds space behind the beat, pauses, and arpeggios to the song’s embracing vision. Hear Tyner-esque power in her cascading drive. With drummer Jasper Somsen kicking it up a muscular notch, this goes from graceful will to resolute testimony, and genuine joy in humanity’s ongoing potential.

But Arriale’s no idealizing Pollyanna. By contrast, her other cover, Lennon and McCartney’s “Let It Be” abides by the title’s implicit Zen philosophizing, wholly inhabiting the song’s deep-chested wisdom, imbued with grace. The pianist’s solo turns through the stately changes like jewels held to daylight.

Lynne Arriale new CD. Courtesy Challenge records

Among her excellent originals, the title tune, “Give Us These Days,” brims with meaning. The title derives from a poem by Jim Schley, titled “Devotional.” Indeed, it gathers itself as a bouquet of humble words, and a genial, wondering, musical theme steps deftly into gentle winds. The music feels like a prayer for blessings from Bill Evans’s exquisitely tragic ghost, with its lovely descending voicings of melody melting into limpid concentric harmonic circles. Like a true poet, Arriale also knows when to end, never wasting anyone’s time with mere chops displays or empty rhetoric.

“Appassionata” unfurls a smart Latin tempo that recalls Chick Corea, but Arriale possesses her own attack, resonance and phrase-turning – elegant yet driven in the same long pianistic breath. Bassist Jasper Somsen interacts propulsively with her chording. The melody, a strength of her writing, conveys an eloquent arch- the-back steeliness to reach for intervals of melodic rightness.

Arriale clearly prioritizes beauty in her music. However, she provides relief from the lyrical and sumptuous in the slightly Monkish “Slightly Off Kilter,” with its see-saw rhythmic tumble and puckish dissonance. Van Hulten’s counterpunching drums work like cock-eyed clockwork as Arriale swings with stylish muscle and momentum. Similarly, “Over and Out,” revels in pungent harmonic and rhythmic potency.

By delicious contrast, this leads to a surprise, the album’s closer “Take It with Me,” a Tom Waits song rendered by guest vocalist Kate McGarry. “The ocean it is as blue as your eyes. I’m gonna take it with me when I go,” she sings early on, a sort of reverie acknowledging the preciousness of life’s final departure. Cultural commentators are loathe to ascribe sentiment to art they seek to praise. Yet there’s a place for unabashed feeling especially born of the poetic songwriter’s reflective poise. For Waits’ sentiment stands up beacon-like to the heart’s deepest ache and travails. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. Its emotion is well-earned by Waits’ wry-tinged mastery, and the dueting artistry of Arriale and McGarry.

Arriale proves she knows how to craft a full album, with a meaningful musical and expressive arc, an increasingly lost art, in this age of bifurcated attention spans. Sit back, let this music breath, amid your own senses and its fine passing time. Give us these days.

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