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Lynne Arriale: Nuance: The Bennett Studio Sessions

One can scarcely blame longtime fans of pianist Lynne Arriale for being a little wary of Nuance, since the album marks a departure from her consistently enjoyable and widely acclaimed trio recordings with Jay Anderson and Steve Davis. For this studio session, Arriale has expanded the size of her ensemble by recruiting two new, highly sought-after collaborators, trumpeter Randy Brecker and bassist George Mraz, along with drummer Anthony Pinciotti, with whom the pianist has infrequently performed.

Yet if the names and format have changed, the level of finesse and imagination that listeners have come to expect from Arriale hasn’t. On the contrary, she seems inspired by a fresh set of dynamics and options. For evidence of that, look no further than the album’s opening tracks: an impressionistic rendering of Sting’s “Wrapped Around Your Finger” that takes full advantage of Brecker’s commanding technique, and a terrifically animated version of Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You” that’s as knotty and brassy as it is personalized. Similarly, Arriale’s “Yada Yada Yada” is an engagingly dissonant reminder of her affection for Monk’s humor and ingenuity. Of course, with Brecker aboard, it’s no surprise that Arriale also embarks on a few ruminative excursions, beginning with “Longing” and culminating with another quietly affecting original composition, “A Gentle Soul.” Each is quietly enhanced by Brecker’s soulful lyricism.

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