- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

Jazz pianist Lynne Arriale stumbled upon her chosen genre in her mid-20s after years of studying classical music. Her first significant exposure to jazz, and all its improvisational charms, proved a revelation that changed the course of her career.
"I had no idea what jazz was — its chord changes over the course of a song," Miss Arriale says. "It was like learning a new language."
Audiences attending the Kennedy Center's seventh annual "Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival" may enjoy a similar twinge of discovery, Miss Arriale says. This year's events start Thursday in the center's Terrace Theater and run through May 11. The Millennium Stage, which offers hourlong free concerts at 6 p.m. daily, also is sponsoring some affiliated events through May 11. Jazz vocalist Marlene ver Planck entertains tonight.
"There's something special about this," says Miss Arriale, who attended the first "Women in Jazz" festival and returns this year. "There's a sense of discovery [for the audience], of hearing artists they haven't heard before. There's always an excitement in that."
Joining Miss Arriale on this year's lineup are Sherrie Maricle and her all-women band, Mary Stallings, the Sherry Winston Band, Nicki and Lisa Parrott, Diane Schuur, Patricia Barber, the Ingrid Jensen Quartet with Christine Jensen and the Rhoda Scott Trio.
The 2002 International Association for Jazz Education Sisters in Jazz Collegiate Quintet, featuring winners of the annual Sisters in Jazz Collegiate Competition, will perform two free shows on the Millennium Stage Friday and May 11.
Jazz trumpeter Clora Bryant will receive this year's Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz award in recognition of her pioneering career.
A women-only festival, Miss Arriale says, supplies unique rewards.
"There's a particular energy. It's very supportive and the audiences are excited to see so many women performing," says Miss Arriale, whose new album, "Inspiration," features her arrangements of Leonard Bernstein's "America," Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and Burt Bacharach's "A House Is Not a Home."
Miss Arriale will perform with her trio at 7 p.m. Thursday with the Diane Schuur Trio, Miss Maricle and Diva, an all-female big band troupe.
The jazz pianist, whose trio has recorded seven CDs and will play New York City's Birdland jazz club the week before the Kennedy Center gig, says such women as Miss Williams paved the way for today's female jazz artists.
"They felt a strong sense of isolation. They weren't part of the club at all," says Miss Arriale of her jazz predecessors. "It's changed to a certain extent, but there's a way to go."
When Miss Arriale talks to young female musicians these days, she focuses on the opportunities, not stubborn stereotypes.
"If they feel, for example, they're being discriminated against, I'm pretty adamant about having them focus on the music," she says. "Never fall back on the excuse that it's because I'm a woman. There are opportunities out there.
"The danger is it becomes an excuse," says Miss Arriale, who began playing the piano by ear at age 3 and later won the 1993 International Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Fla. "There are places to play; there are people who are open-minded."
For fellow '02 Women in Jazz musician Miss Schuur, this year's festival will be her first.
It won't be the first time, though, performing alongside Diva.
"We've worked a lot together," the woman affectionately known as Deedles says. "We all love and respect each other's work."
Miss Schuur promises that her set will include "Louisiana Sunday Afternoon" and "Deedles' Blues."
Discovered by Dizzy Gillespie at the 1979 Monterey Jazz Festival, Miss Schuur will be teaming with a man for her next record. Come September, famed crooner Barry Manilow will write the songs she intends to record.
"Barry and I have a history," she explains. "I did the 'Swing Street' TV special in 1988."
Another famous singer, jazz superstar Diana Krall, may contribute a song on the album, as well.
"I know she's loved and respected by a lot of people. She does definitely have a niche in the jazz world today," Miss Schuur says.
"It'll be interesting it's a good thing she isn't as rangy as I am," says Miss Schuur, who packs a 3-octave range.
These days, she puts that impressive range to better use.
"I think I've matured," the two-time Grammy winner says. "I deliver a lot of things a little more, how would I put it, not quite as strident."
Blind since birth, Miss Schuur says female jazz artists today have fewer obstacles to overcome than their predecessors.
"People are a lot more open-minded to what women can really do in the industry [now]," she says.

WHAT: Seventh annual "Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival"
WHERE: Kennedy Center, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW
WHEN: Thursday through May 11
TICKETS: $25 in Terrace Theater; Millennium Stage performances are free
PHONE: 202/467-4600


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