Almost all of the material on Lynne Arriale’s first solo album—arriving nearly two decades into her career—has appeared on the pianist-composer’s previous releases, but her decision to reconsider these songs as solo vehicles isn’t a mark of playing it safe. Arriale went into the project not with the intention of stripping out what other players had to say, but rather to rethink these pieces from the ground up. Both “La Noche” and “Yada, Yada, Yada,” two of Solo’s seven original compositions, first turned up on 2009’s Nuance, itself a habit-breaker for Arriale as she left behind her long-running trio and worked with a quartet that featured trumpeter Randy Brecker.
On that album, the arrangements are naturally robust, and Arriale could count on Brecker to flesh out her melodic ideas. One might expect the solo takes to feel thinner, or at least lonelier, but Arriale is a crafty and broadminded enough pianist to know how to fill what might in lesser hands be a void. On the Monk-like “Yada, Yada, Yada” in particular, she’s frisky and sharp-witted, switching up rhythmic patterns often to keep things lively.
The specter of Monk—long a source of inspiration and repertoire for Arriale—rears itself twice more on Solo, on new looks at his “Evidence” and “Bye-Ya.” On 2000’s Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the former is given a somewhat ominous, bass-driven reading while here, Arriale relies on her left hand to keep the bottom moving along while skittering merrily and daringly with her right.
Whether taking on Cole Porter (“What Is This Thing Called Love?”), Billy Joel (a surprisingly soulful and melancholic “And So It Goes”) or presenting one of her own (the beautifully framed ballad “Arise,” the classically informed “Dance”), Arriale proves as comfortable in a solo setting as she’s been in the company of others.