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Lynne Arriale Trio

Give Us These Days

by Ian Mann

January 16, 2020


An excellent addition to Arriale’s already impressive discography and to the jazz piano trio canon as a whole. It is particularly impressive for tackling a broad range of musical and emotional styles.

Lynne Arriale Trio

“Give Us These Days”

(Challenge Records CR73453)

Lynne Arriale – piano, Jasper Somsen – double bass, Jasper Van Hulten – drums

“Give Us These Days” is the fourteenth album release as a leader by the American pianist and composer Lynne Arriale. It first appeared in May 2018 but a review copy was only forwarded to me by Lynne fairly recently, and the album seems to be the subject of a second “push”.

I first heard Arriale’s playing around a decade ago when I was introduced to her music by my friend Paul, a great fan of the piano trio format in jazz, and of Bill Evans in particular.

Through Paul I was introduced to such Arriale recordings as “Arise” (2002), “Live” (2005) and “Nuance” (2008), enjoying them all in my capacity as a jazz fan.

Both “Arise” and “Live” featured Arriale’s long running trio with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Steve Davis and the majority of her recordings have been in this format. Others to fill the bass and drum chairs in Arriale’s trios have included bassists John Patitucci,  Scott Colley, Drew Gress, George Mraz and Omer Avital and drummer Anthony Pinciotti.

Occasionally Arriale has expanded her groups with the addition of a horn player, such as trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Bill McHenry. She has also recorded in the solo piano format.

As can be seen from the quality of the musical company that she keeps Arriale is a true jazz heavyweight, a musician whose talents demand that she be considered as a member of the jazz Premier League.

Arriale’s first release for the Austrian imprint Challenge Records, following a lengthy six album tenure with the Motema label, sees her introducing a brand new trio featuring bassist Jasper Somsen and drummer Jasper Van Hulten, both fresh names to me. One track also features the singing of guest vocalist Kate McGarry.

The members of Arriale’s new rhythm team both hail from the Netherlands and Somsen also acts as the pianist’s co-producer.

The track listing for this latest recording comprises of six new Arriale originals, together with three interpretations of pop/rock songs, Joni Mitchell’s’ “Woodstock”, The Beatles’ “Let It Be” and Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me”.

The album commences with a re-harmonised version of “Woodstock”, delivered in a very contemporary style and heavily disguised as first, with the familiar melody alluded to in tantalising flashes rather than stated openly. Despite her obvious love of melody Arriale is also a highly adventurous, and surprisingly robust player and improviser. She may have been routinely compared to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, but there’s plenty of McCoy Tyner in her style too, particularly so when she stretches out here, her powerful soloing receiving equally forceful backing from her dynamic new rhythm team. It all makes for a highly exciting and arresting opener.

The first original tune is the Latin-esque “Appassionata”, introduced by vigorous bass and drums and with a beguiling melody that has invited comparisons with the writing of Chick Corea and of Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla. Arriale’s piano dances above the busy patter of Van Hulten’s drums as the trio continue to dazzle with another dynamic trio performance. Somsen impresses with a highly dexterous double bass solo, underpinned by Arriale’s prompting from the piano and the ongoing bustle of Van Hulten’s drums.

“Finding Home” introduces a more lyrical side of Arriale’s writing and the trio’s playing, with its airy melodies and softer grooves. There’s a flowing lyricism about Arriale’s solo and she’s followed by Somsen, whose bass playing combines a strong melodic sense with great dexterity. The impressive Van Hulten remains busy behind the kit, his playing subtly propulsive, but never overly intrusive. At times the piece almost sounds like a standard, such are its melodic qualities.

Arriale’s title track takes its title from a line in the poem “Devotional” by the American writer and editor Jim Schley. In his liner notes for the “Give Us These Days” album Lawrence Abrams describes this composition as “an instrumental prayer”, which summarises the mood of the piece perfectly. There’s a suitably devotional, or hymnal, feel about the music with Arriale’s unhurried piano meditations complemented by deeply resonant double bass and by Van Hulten’s delicately detailed cymbal work. Following his busy, virtuoso playing on the earlier pieces the drummer now impresses with his restraint and his admirable work as a colourist.

The pace picks up again with Arriale’s “Slightly Off-Center”,which to these ears sounds like Thelonious Monk updated for the 21st century. There’s something of Monk’s quirkiness about Arriale’s writing here in a joyous trio performances that fairly bristles with energy. Arriale dazzles with an expansive solo that also has something of Keith Jarrett about it too, especially when she exercises her penchant for singing along with her playing. Somsen’s lively and agile bass solo re-introduces some of that Monkish quirkiness, and there’s also an animated drum feature from the irrepressible Van Hulten, prior to a final trio restatement of the theme.

Arriale’s “Another Sky” is similar in feel to the title track, reflective and lyrical in tone with the leader’s gentle piano explorations complemented by Somsen’s melodic bass soloing and Van Hulten’s filigree cymbal work.

Arriale has always had a fondness for the music of The Beatles and her previous albums have included jazz interpretations of “Come Together”, “Blackbird” and “Here Comes The Sun”. This time round her chosen vehicle is Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be”, which continues in the gently reflective mood established by the previous track. Arriale’s subtle re-harmonisation loses nothing of the hymnal quality of McCartney’s tune and the piece is similar in feel to “Give Us These Days”, melancholic, spiritual and ultimately somehow uplifting. Arriale explores the inner architecture of the song in unhurried fashion, probing softly and gently, sympathetically supported by bass and delicately brushed drums. There’s a melodic bass solo from Somsen and another immaculate ‘colourist’s’ performance from Van Hulten.

The penultimate track is Arriale’s “Over And Out”, which raises the energy levels once more, a musical sugar rush, in which an infectious, gospel flavoured snatch of melody acts as the catalyst for some of the leader’s most vivacious soloing of the set, surfing the busy rhythmic waves generated by energetic bass and drums. Somsen’s double bass solo provides a comparative pause for breath, but the leader’s spirited piano interjections ensure that it all remains pretty lively, and even more so when Van Hulten takes over for a dynamic drum feature.

Arriale is joined by guest vocalist Kate McGarry for the closing piece, a version of the song “Take It With Me”, written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. This voice and piano performance represents a kind of charming coda to the album as a whole. Inevitably McGarry’s wistful vocals sound very different to Waits’ patented rasp, but they still convey the bitter-sweet emotions of a song that has become one of the best loved in the Waits canon – and one which has also acquired something of a life of its own.

“Give Us These Days” is an excellent addition to Arriale’s already impressive discography and to the jazz piano trio canon as a whole. As an album it is particularly impressive for tackling a broad range of musical styles and also for embracing a similarly wide emotional range. Arriale is equally convincing whether she is exploring the deeply emotional territory of the title track and “Let It Be” or improvising with complete abandon on such dynamic, high energy performances as “Woodstock”, “Slightly Off-Center” and “Over And Out”.

Despite never having heard them before I’m also extremely impressed with both Somsen and Van Hulten, who totally buy into Arriale’s concept and complement her every move with acumen and total conviction. They are equally convincing on the blistering up-tempo numbers, where they form an energetic, vigorous and vital presence, as they are on the ballads, where they perform with considerable grace and taste. Their contribution more than matches that of their illustrious American predecessors and both Jaspers will be names to watch out for in the future.

The album was largely recorded in Belgium and co-producers Arriale and Somsen, together with engineers Floren Van Stichel and Steven Maes, deserve credit for a pinpoint mix that brings out all the detail and nuance in the playing.

British fans will have to wait until October 11th and 12th 2020 to see Arriale and her trio performing live when they visit the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London. Somsen will be on bass with E.J. Strickland at the drums.

In the meantime Arriale has plenty of other tour dates scheduled in the US and mainland Europe. Check for her full itinerary.

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