For the vast majority of her career, pianist Lynne Arriale concentrated almost exclusively on her trio, not varying the format until her two most recent releases, when she expanded the group to a quartet with the additions of saxophonist Bill McHenry or trumpeter Randy Brecker. Now she takes the opposite tack on her latest CD, the self-explanatorily titled Solo.
While regular trio mates Jay Anderson and Steve Davis are nowhere to be found, Arriale approaches her solo debut in familiar fashion, running through a set that’s about evenly divided between originals and covers, ranging from standards and show tunes to repurposed pop songs. The general mood is one of lush romanticism, though Arriale always keeps a few steely surprises up her sleeve.
Solo begins with just such a deviation, as “La Noche” kicks off with urgently descending chords before leading into an entrancing “Arabian Nights” melody. More familiar is the tender, melancholy take on Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” that closes the disc. In between, she takes on a pair of Thelonious Monk tunes, fragmenting “Evidence” with a staggering tempo and slowing “Bye-Ya” to an almost saloon-piano feel. She embraces “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” with a wistfulness that actually seems to pose that question in every phrase, while her jagged “What is This Thing Called Love” suggests a rather confused answer to Cole Porter’s question.
Arriale’s own contributions range from the introspective “The Dove” to the crystalline “Will o’ the Wisp.” Her compositions at times approach the programmatic, evoked by the insistent chatter of “Yada, Yada, Yada” or the chilly autumnal shoreline of “Sea and Sand.” Throughout, Arriale elaborates each piece with silken articulation and dewy-eyed sentimentality.