Bob Dylan penned his impressionistic anthem “Chimes of Freedom” in early 1964, at the height of the civil rights era and in the wake of the Kennedy assassination. With lyrics that cry out for social justice, the song continues to resonate powerfully. So it’s more than appropriate that pianist and composer Lynne Arriale would interpret the tune, which provides a theme for her recent release, also titled Chimes of Freedom (Challenge).
Accompanied by bassist and co-producer Jasper Somsen and drummer E.J. Strickland, Arriale delves into a program that musically responds to political events of the past few years. An impassioned take on “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” seems to weep for immigrant children forcibly separated from their parents, while Arriale compositions “Journey” (a video of which you can stream below) and “The Dreamers” reference the fear and anxiety of displaced people searching for a better life, and of those for whom that life might be upended. But then, tracks such as the quietly optimistic “Hope” and “Lady Liberty” conjure the “better angels” of our national character and serve as reminders of an American ideal built on compassion.
For her read of the title song, Arriale slows the tempo and enlists vocalist K.J. Denhert, who brings a breathy, world-weary tone to Dylan’s timeless poetry. The album concludes with a faithful version of Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” with Denhert and Arriale alone together for the first couple of verses. Somsen and Strickland then lend sensitive accompaniment to this nuanced examination of the American dream. A professor of Jazz Studies and director of small ensembles at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Arriale continues to refine her deeply personal melodic approach on this, her 15th album as a leader.