lynne arriale trio at Top o' the Senator (249 Victoria), Tuesday through Saturday (February 27 to March 3), $10-$15. 416-364-7517. jazz, says new york-based pianist and composer Lynne Arriale, is just like talking. Once you know the language, you can set off in any direction. Makes sense, though the analogy oversimplifies the rich harmonic exchange she shares with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Steve Davis on the Lynne Arriale Trio's recently released Live At Montreux disc.
A mix of Arriale's own angular compositions and covers of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and others, the recording finds the players fanning out for explosive runs before stridently converging on each other to retrace each song's basic blueprint.
If improv jazz is a gab fest, then the Lynne Arriale Trio is debating whether Cartesian theory is tenable.
"Jazz is such a unique art form, and people don't always realize that," the classically trained Arriale says. "We are composing all the time. With us, everything that happens after the melody is stated is improvisation, so we're composing and performing on the spot, spontaneously, which is a very cool thing.
"When we give master classes that are open to the public, I announce that we are in fact improvising. And you'd be surprised how many people are stunned by that. They come up to me and tell me they've been listening to jazz for 30 years and had no idea the music was entirely spontaneous."
Speaking from home during a brief stay in New York -- Arriale says the trio's frequent flyer points are substantial enough to help underwrite their tour transportation overhead -- the pianist admits the live recording was a potential risk, since they were recording only the Swiss gig and would only consider scrapping it for technical reasons.
Even more impressive than the Arriale Trio's truly telepathic interplay on that one night is the fact that the pianist genuinely doesn't care if she's recognized for her own compositions so long as her performances are powerful.
"It's very important that the melody is memorable and that it reaches people, but it's not that important whether I wrote something or someone else did, as long as it has an effect," Arriale says.*