I did not “get” Lynne Arriale until I saw her live, in the optimum setting of Duc des Lombards in Paris. She achieves a special, deep connection with her audience, and the energy flows both ways.
Another reason Arriale is best in person is that her trio provides a visual as well as a sonic experience. Arriale is gorgeous in Technicolor, with flaming red curls and startling blue eyes, and she presides over the piano with the grace of a princess. Her drummer, Steve Davis, pirouettes around the drum kit like a ballet danseur.
Her trio, therefore, is an especially appropriate subject for a DVD. Live is a CD/DVD double album, recorded at the Burghausen Jazzwoche festival in April of 2005. The vivid video and 5.1-channel audio imagery is by BR-Alpha Television, Germany’s PBS counterpart.
Arriale’s emotional authenticity and the discipline of her creative process allow her audience to feel and think along with her. “Alone Together” starts with dark chords and slow drama but quickly picks up light and speed. An important element of her communicative clarity is her imaginative retention of a song’s melodic thread, even through her freest variations. Her choices of material are characteristically intelligent, and she rises to their challenges: the incantatory, profound simplicity of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Mountain of the Night”; the twisted wit of Monk’s “Bemsha Swing.” Most notably, she smokes on “Come Together” with a re-syncopated melody, new harmonies and a left-hand hook that knocks you down.
Arriale is underrated as a composer. “Home” is a ballad with pristine chords and poignant resolutions. “Arise” is one of the most affecting of all the jazz tunes written for 9/11. At Burghausen, far from New York (just as when I heard her play it at Duc des Lombards), it creates a chill because Arriale and her audience participate together in its universal human suffering.