Pianist Joanne Brackeen is one of the best non-Brazilian interpreters of Brazilian music on the scene today. For many years a sideman in a wide variety of jazz combos, Brackeen has a natural flair for Brazilian and Latin rhythms as it quite clear from her brilliant album Breath of Brazil that features the works of a number of composers including Ivan Lins, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sergio Mendes.
“Madalena” and “Velas” are two songs by Ivan Lins that have become standards. Brackeen’s interpretation of “Velas” is particularly satisfying and is a model of the deceptively smooth laid-back performance style of the bossa nova that masks an underlying rhythmic intensity.
A very interesting work is “Guessing Game” with its angular modal melody and rhythmic tricks. Brackeen features her supporting musicians to great advantage, especially bassist Eddie Gomez who figures prominently in “Breath of Brasil” and in Sergio Mendes’ “So Many Stars.” Having “So Many Stars” begin with the melody in the bass is an interesting and unexpected twist.
No Brazilian album would be complete without Jobim, and Brackeen selects two of the master’s best songs, “Aguas de Marcos” and “Anos Dourados.” Jobim considered “Aguas de Marcos” to be his masterpiece and most performers have agreed with his self-assessment. The versatility of the song is remarkable and it has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from Elis Regina’s playful way with the song’s text in her famous duet with Jobim himself to hard-driving instrumental versions such as the one offered here by Brackeen.
Joanne Brackeen is an excellent jazz pianist who deserves much wider recognition. Breath of Brasil is a good introduction to this fine performer, and if you’re already a fan it’s another “must have” for the cd collection.
Track Listing: Madalena; Velas; Aguas de Mareco; Guessing Game; Breath of Brazil; Sue Encanto; Loro; So May Stars; Anos Dourados; Brasiliero Escondido; Flora; Samba de Soho.