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Lynne Arriale - "How to teach fingers to sing"

Lynne Arriale definitely is one of the worlds most famous names in jazz-piano-playing. Her distinctive, lyrical style has let her conquer a strong position even in an otherwise male-dominated territory - a position strengthened by constant hard work and with the help of her band. Several years of close working together made her trio with drummer Steve Davis and bassist Jay Anderson a strong unity - still full of fresh energy, as she herself is stating.

Lynne Arriale

Lynne Arriale´s latest album "Inspiration" has been released in February 2002 . With her trio she is currently on an international tour and will play in Berlin at the A-Trane on March 7th.

Jazzdimensions did an e-mail-interview with Lynne Arriale.

Carina: Your musical background is classical music. Why and when did you focus on jazz instead? Is there a person or event connected to it?

Lynne: I was finishing my master's degree and I literally had a passing thought about studying jazz. I didn't know anything about jazz, nor did I understand that it was improvised music, but I began studying, and it became clear to me that I wanted to pursue learning how to play.

Jazz involves not only performing, but also 'composing on the spot,' which is a great challenge. It involves learning an entirely new language.

Carina: The Beatles music is very popular in the moment - maybe more than ever since George Harrison´s death. What is your relationship to it?

Lynne: The Beatles music is so rich with great melodies, many of which work well for improvisation. There are at least six other Beatles tunes that I would like to incorporate into our repertoire. The Beatles music is timeless and will undoubtedly become standards in the jazz repertoire.

Carina: Besides the Beatles´ "Blackbird" we find the Bernstein-tune "America" among the songs of "Inspiration". Does it have a special message for you in connection with September 11th?

Lynne: The CD was recorded in August, a month before the September 11 tragedy. My interpretation of the song is reflective of the lyrics, rather than any comment about the state America is in.

Lynne Arriale Trio - "Inspiration"

Carina: What makes you prefer one title over another for your repertoire? What do you rate higher - the feeling of a song or tempting technical aspects?

Lynne: I choose repertoire based on my feeling for the tune and the strength of the melody, as well as the tune's potential for being a vehicle for improvisation i.e. the chord structure. Some songs are really nice but do not work very well for improvisation.

Carina: You were "playing by ear and making up melodies at the age of three". What influence did it have on your career to be so talented and have that talent recognized so early?

Lynne: I was making up melodies, but that was not developed until I was 25 years old, as I heard no improvised music in the home that I grew up, so the improvisational skills were not nurtured. I studied classical music, but the teachers did not have any experience in teaching improvisation, so those elements seemed to become dormant for many years.

In terms of being an 'aural' musician - certain things were easier, and reading notes was not one of them. I tended to play what I heard, as opposed to what was written, but I did eventually learn to read music.

Carina: Discipline is something you are known for - practicing for eight hours was nothing extraordinary for you. How is it possible to integrate that into your daily life?

Lynne: A great day for me would be one that there were no phone calls to make, no business things to deal with! That kind of day never exists - unless I am preparing for a new recording project, and I really cut back on the business things that I have to take care of.

Lynne Arriale

Most of the time, like this morning, I am at the computer from ten o´clock in the morning to five in the afternoon. Then I try to work out, and then I practice in the evening. I would love to have an eight hour practice day, but that rarely exists!


It is common and very easy to just play what we have practiced,
versus playing 'the right phrase' at any given moment!

Carina: You once said: 'It has taken me years to teach my fingers to sing'. - What makes fingers 'sing'?

Lynne: It is a metaphor for "getting the fingers to play what the mind/heart directs". It is very common and very easy to just play what we have practiced, versus playing 'the right phrase' at any given moment.

Carina: Do you really describe a connection between singing and playing?

Lynne: That too, is highly subjective, but singing away from the instrument helps that connection, so that when we sit down and play, the connection is there, and the material we play is usually much better.

Carina: One of your main goals is to do a good concert for the audience - how much influence does the audience have on your music?

Lynne: The audience's energy has an impact on the music, but we have a single minded focus on the music when we get on stage, so we will hopefully play our best, regardless of the audience.

We are there to play for the audience, as opposed to 'playing for ourselves,' so that impacts our energy, our intent, as well as our choice of repertoire.

Carina: Some people call you an "under-recognized" pianist. Would you agree to that? Has it something to do with being a woman in a man's world?

Lynne: I have no basis for comparison to see how my career would be different if I played exactly as I do and happened to be a man! - Sexism exists, racism exists, but my focus is on the music and the incredible amount of work that has to be done to keep a group working.

Lynne Arriale

Carina: Do you have a sort of philosophy for life?

Lynne: I wouldn't say that I have a direct philosophy for life - but I have so many lessons taught to me by my life's experience, that I find that if I don't get the message the first time, that the lesson will be repeated louder and stronger - which is usually unpleasant!

I have found that if details are not checked and double checked, things will often go wrong in some way. Life seems to be getting much more complicated than ever before, and if we are not aware of the human tendency to 'space out', then we will be taught about "Murphy's Law" - in a big way.

It seems like many more people I know are dealing with serious problems than ever before - physical and emotional, stressful situations - and with financial problems. I feel it is very important to err on the side of being respectful and gentle with all of the people we deal with. We never know if we are talking with someone who just got diagnosed with cancer, or whose mother just died, or whose child has a physical disability ...

Life is challenging enough, and I always appreciate when I deal with people who are considerate, focussed, and kind. At best, it soothes the craziness of our daily lives, and at the very least, it creates no additional stress in our day!

Carina Prange

Lynn Arriale im Internet: www.lynnearriale.com

Fotos: Pressefotos

© jazzdimensions2002
erschienen: 4.3.2002
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