One of the great pianist’s and unsung heroes in Modern Jazz returns in incendiary and dynamic fashion. Joanne Brackeen’s Pink Elephant Magic is stunning, articulate and easily one of the premier jazz recordings of 1999.
The title track and opener, “Pink Elephant Magic” is simply an outstanding composition! The complex and seemingly difficult to perform arrangement is multifaceted, cleverly orchestrated and superior in scope and altogether artfully constructed. Brackeen, with the assistance of Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Chris Potter (soprano sax) are in fine form along with the superstar rhythm section of John Patitucci and drummer Horacio Hernandez. “Pink Elephant Magic” stands out for it’s shifting tempos and meter, which is implemented with the precision of a Rolex watch. The band covers the gamut ranging from Marching-Band, furious swing and tinges of Latin Clave’. Ms. Brackeen is the consummate leader while performing flawlessly through keen invention of melody, rapid yet easy to grasp thematic development and fluid right-hand single note runs. Trio performances of Jobim’s “Wave” and Brackeen’s affable blues orientated boogie-woogie piece “Ghost Butter” are spine tingling as the rhythm section of Patitucci and Hernandez provide synergy and display a monstrous presence. Brackeen’s “What’s Your Choice, Rolls Royce? features scat and vocal treatment by hipster Kurt Elling. Here, soprano sax icon and fellow Arkadia recording artist David Liebman pairs up with Brackeen as they execute unison lines which compliments Elling’s glib call and response vocalizing. “Beethoven Meets The Millennium in Spain” is yet another witty, sparkling composition by Brackeen. The brass duo of Chris Potter and Nicholas Payton playfully quote Beethoven’s 5th as this piece features Latin motifs, engaging lyricism and memorable themes. Demanding yet effortlessly executed as the rhythm section forges ahead through perpetual motion and cunning interplay.
Ms. Brackeen performs solo piano on Dave Brubeck’s “Strange Meadowlark”. Here, Brackeen is passionate, meticulous and engages this composition with heartfelt sentiment. The gifted saxophonist Chris Potter churns out a warm, finely crafted tenor sax solo on Ms. Brackeen’s “In Vogue”. Brackeen’s “Cram’ N Exam” has all the intensity and drive of a big band arrangement complete with hard boiled swing, sure-fired determination and strong soloing which gravitates towards a sense of urgency.
Pink Elephant Magic is the complete package as Joanne Brackeen proves beyond a doubt her significant value to the jazz community while some of jazz’ top performers assist in carving out an album that is positively, “magical”. *****