Lynne Arriale: The Lights Are Always On

The pianist's new suite dwells on weighty social and political matters but the playing is fleet, inventive and filled with optimism


Lynne Arriale’s reputation continues to grow steadily and this, her 16th album, demonstrates that she is clearly one of the best contemporary jazz pianists. Known internationally through extensive tours, here Arriale performs a suite of her own compositions.

Depicted musically are recent events and individuals brought to prominence by the pandemic, the rise of right-wing extremism and assaults on democracy. The opening track, performed with a Latin touch, is the composer’s tribute to activists of all nations. With Sisters, Arriale acknowledges the rich heritage of gospel music, while Honor, The Notorious RBG and Walk In My Shoes are tributes to Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Representative John Lewis.

The composer depicts the 6 January 2021 insurrection in Washington DC with Into The Breach, displaying her respect for those who defended the Capitol. The closing track of the suite continues her praise of men and women, named and nameless, who did, and are still doing, so much to preserve the world as we have known it and perhaps taken for granted. Appropriately, the album’s title track is inspired by front-line health care workers everywhere.

Although the underlying themes are often dark, Arriale’s playing throughout is fleet, inventive and filled with optimism. Doubtless, these are qualities she passes on not only to those who hear her performances, live and on record, but also to future generations through her teaching at master classes and clinics and as professor of jazz studies and director of small ensembles at the University of North Florida.

While Arriale’s piano is the principal instrument, bass and drums are not there merely to provide support, which they certainly do, but are equal partners in this exploration. Very warmly recommended.

March On; The Lights Are Always On; Sisters; Honor; Loved Ones; Sounds Like America; The Notorious RBG; Into The Breach; Walk In My Shoes; Heroes (44.15)
Arriale (p); Jasper Somsen (b); E.J. Strickland (d). Unknown location, 2021.
Challenge CD 73532