Joanne Brackeen

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Snooze (1975), 5/10
Invitation (1976), 6/10
Tring-A-Ling (1977), 7/10
Aft (1977), 7/10
Mythical Magic (1978), 5.5/10
Keyed In (1979), 5/10
Ancient Dynasty (1980), 7/10
Special Identity (1981), 7/10
Fi-Fi Goes to Heaven (1986), 5/10
Live at Maybeck Recital Hall (1989), 6/10
Is it Really True (1991), 7/10
Where Legends Dwell (1991), 7/10
Pink Elephant Magic (1998), 6/10

Los Angeles' white pianist Joanne Brackeen (1938) who moved to New York in 1965 and played in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1969-72). She debuted as a leader at 36 with Snooze (march 1975), reissued as Six Ate, in a trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart. A similar trio cut Invitation (july 1976), a better display of her lengthy, erudite and intricate post-bop compositions (Six Ate, Echoes, C-Sri). Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker joined Brackeen, Hart and McBee on Tring-A-Ling (march 1977), the first album entirely devoted to original compositions (the twelve-minute Shadowbrook-Aire, the nine-minute Echoes, the twelve-minute Haiti-B). Aft (december 1977), in a trio with guitarist Ryo Kawasaki and bassist Clint Houston, emphasized textural and timbral nuances of her playing (Haiti B, Aft, Winter Is Here, the nine-minute Green Voices of Play Air). The closest reference point for her piano playing would be McCoy Tyner. In the meantime she had been playing with Joe Henderson (1972-1975) and Stan Getz (1975-1977), but now she began to focus on her solo career. Her first solo-piano album, Mythical Magic (september 1978), sounded a bit shy (except Mythical Magic), as did Keyed In (may 1979), in a trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, devoted to relatively simpler pieces. On the contrary, the four lengthy originals of Ancient Dynasty (may 1980), that added tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson to the rhythm section of Gomez and DeJohnette, boasted both the intensity and the brains of her most inspired moments. Special Identity (december 1981), again in a trio with Gomez and DeJohnette, was even more adventurous in terms of group interplay and solos (Special Identity).

She never quite recaptured the magic of the 1970s, despite featuring trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis on Fi-Fi Goes To Heaven (august 1986). Live At Maybeck Recital Hall (june 1989) debuted several new originals for solo piano (Dr Chu Chow, Curved Space, African Aztec) among a plethora of predictable standards. She returned to her favorite format of the trio on Is It Really True (july 1991), that delivered more evidence of her compositional mastery (the eleven-minute Haiti-B, the nine-minute Dr Chu Chow, the nine-minute Estilo Magnifico), and reunited with Gomez and DeJohnette on Where Legends Dwell (september 1991) for a set of impeccable post-bop and pre-fusion demonstrations (notably Picasso and Asian Spell).

The albums of the 1990s tended to include too many covers and recycle old ideas. Best was Pink Elephant Magic (august 1998), with In Vogue and Beethoven Meets the Millennium in Spain.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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