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Lynne Arriale's new album honors caregivers, truth tellers and defenders of democracy

Pianist Lynne Arriale.
Joseph Montezinos
Courtesy of the artist
Pianist Lynne Arriale.

Releasing on April 8, The Lights Are Always On is pianist/composer Lynne Arriale’s 16th album as bandleader. It is inspired by the words of a surgeon in Tacoma, Washington.

Lynne Arriale was the first prize winner of the 1993 International Great American Jazz Piano Competition, and launched her touring and recording career soon afterwards. She's performed at jazz festivals and on concert stages all over the world. Her 15 albums have topped the JazzWeek radio charts.

A dedicated educator and adjudicator, Arriale is currently Professor of Jazz Studies and Director of Small Ensembles at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

On her newest album, Arriale is joined by bassist and co-producer Jasper Somsen, and drummer E.J. Strickland.

Arriale's original music for The Lights Are Always On is a suite of compositions that reflect the world wide, life-changing events of the past two years.

Several of the pieces are named in honor of heroes around the world, including those who served as caregivers on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, and as defenders of democracy.

“The Notorious RBG,” is dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Walk in My Shoes,” is a dedication to civil rights icon John Lewis.

Lynne Arriale Trio - "Journey" featuring Jasper Somsen and E.J. Strickland

As humanity reeled under the COVID pandemic, Lynne was overwhelmed by the dedication of Dr. Prakash Gatta, an esophageal and robotic surgeon in Tacoma, Washington.

“This collection was inspired by the doctor and all front-line health care workers," Arriale explains.

"For me, Dr. Gatta crystallized the workers’ heroism; each day bearing the risk of personal infection, and enduring the emotional toll of staggering caseloads presented by this global crisis. Nevertheless, the doctor said, ‘Here I am back at work after COVID...I fled Kuwait after the invasion. No matter what happens, no one works at home. The lights are always on. Babies are being born; bones are being set. This hospital, this profession...we are in a league of our own; we’ll take care of you, I promise. I stand next to the most fearless people I have ever seen.’ ”

Dr. Gatta's words moved Arriale, evoking memories of 9/11 and comparison to the rescue workers who immediately responded to the attacks.

“In appreciation of these heroes I offer this musical tribute. It is dedicated to our loved ones, and to our better angels; those who embrace truth, compassion, and inclusivity, and reject selfishness, lies, and hatred," Arriale explains.

"It also acknowledges the marchers, my beautiful sisters worldwide, and the heroes of science and medicine who have sacrificed so much."

Listen for "Walk In My Shoes" and "Sounds Like America" from Lynne Arriale's The Lights Are Always On on KNKX Midday and Evening Jazz.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.