From the march tempo and hard bop power of "Pink Elephant Magic" to the drifting ballad waltz time of "Filene’s," JoAnne Brackeen’s latest album covers a lot of territory. The pianist’s seven compositions, coupled with three familiar pieces, provide variety and result in a well-rounded set. Bret Primack’s informative liner notes are available on the ‘net at http://www.arkadiarecords.com
. Brackeen has a forceful keyboard style that drives her ensemble with percussive power. Her thirty-year career includes experience with Art Blakey, twenty-two albums as a leader, and teaching at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. More information about JoAnne Brackeen may be found at http://www.joannebrackeen.com
Chris Potter and Nicholas Payton fill out the quintet for "Pink Elephant Magic" and "Cram ‘n Exam," taking their lead from the pianist. The hard bop arrangements present short bursts of high energy from the front line. With Potter on tenor and Jamey Haddad adding Latin percussion, the quintet rolls through "Beethoven Meets the Millennium in Spain," a unique piece containing some comedy, some dramatic flamenco charm, a little Afro-Cuban background, and stirring solo work from saxophone & trumpet. Kurt Elling and Dave Liebman join the piano trio for "What’s Your Choice, Rolls Royce?," appearing flippant at the outside, but in reality holding the deepest respect for the bop history of vocal jazz. Jobim’s "Wave" reveals Brackeen’s unique paths taken with respect to harmony. Here, and at several other points, Patitucci’s bass becomes a little muddy during his solo; he’s trying to fit too many notes into each measure. Similarly, the pianist throws "Tico Tico" into the wind, creating a hailstorm of scattered piano keys (in 5/4 time), while Patitucci turns out his best interlude of the session. Dave Brubeck’s "Strange Meadowlark" is offered as a solo piano piece, revealing another side of the artist. While her keyboard style combines unique harmonies with a constant percussive action, Brackeen’s dramatic approach sweeps you away with its enveloping characteristics.