If her list of accolades were an Academy Awards speech, the music already would have ushered Lynne Arriale off stage.
But it’s actually music that keeps the acclaimed jazz pianist on stage, and this Saturday night Arriale will perform in Gainesville as part of The Arts Council’s Evenings of Intimate Jazz series.
This will be the Jacksonville, Fla., musician’s third time performing in Gainesville, and she couldn’t be more excited. Arriale said the people of Gainesville keep her coming back for more.
"I love playing Gainesville because of the people. I laugh and talk more than I usually do. They’re a wonderful audience," she said. "The last time I was there, I asked if there was something in the water because they are just so much fun."
Arriale, who recently released her latest album, "Nuance," has toured the globe performing her unique soulful arrangements. From legendary saxophonist Benny Golson to Grammy winner Randy Brecker to jazz icon George Mraz, Arriale has played alongside some of the top jazz musicians on the circuit. She’s also been featured in numerous magazines and most recently on the PBS special "Lynne Arriale: Profile of a Performing Artist."
But Arriale claims her passion for jazz was more of a passing whim. She trained classically on the piano at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music until she was 25.
"I didn’t know anything about jazz, and I just thought to myself as I was walking down the street, ‘I should start playing jazz,’" Arriale said. "I knew it was mostly improvising melodies over the same chord changes."
But the transition from classical to jazz was almost like studying a new instrument she said. With lots of dedication, Arriale has "refined her aptitude." She equates learning jazz to learning a foreign language.
"You have to learn the basics, the conjugation of verbs and vocabulary, before you can become fluid and make sense. It takes a long time and a lot of dedication. The best way to learn is by imitation, just like a child hears his parents and learns the language; you have to learn from those who came before us."
And Arriale has been imitating some of the greatest tunes since she was a child.
"I had a toy piano when I was 3 years old. I would hear songs on the radio and then sit down and play them," Arriale said. "I think the first song I ever played was ‘Moon River.’"
Asked why jazz stays close to her heart, Arriale said it’s because jazz is the ultimate freedom in music.
Arriale indulges in the leeway jazz offers for arranging both original songs and jazz standards.
"The world opened up with jazz," she said.
She compared the improvisational qualities of jazz to the bluegrass music of North Georgia.
"Bluegrass is also improvised music and tells a story just like jazz tells a story," Arriale said. "It’s important to me to invite people in and tell a story, to take them by the hand and explore music together."
And she promises to do just that on Saturday. Arriale said concertgoers can expect an adventure, humor and pure joy.
She’ll be performing with Robert Dickson, an upright double bassist from Atlanta, and it will be their first time performing together. But she promises no one would ever be able to tell it because she and Dickson have an emotional connection and both musicians "speak the same language of jazz."
Arriale and Dickson will perform a lot of her original works and arrangements as well as plenty of jazz standards and favorites, or as Arriale puts it, "another take on a familiar tune, something familiar and something new rolled into one." She’ll also be available for a meet-and-greet after the show. Audience members can purchase her latest album, get an autograph or just say hello.
"I encourage people to come say hi to me," she said. "Jazz reaches such a wide audience. I want to reach their hearts and minds, not just for the jazz lover, but for everyone."