This virtuosic solo piano outing by Joanne Brackeen gives Chick Corea’s year 2000 solo series a run for its money. It’s also quite a departure from the busier sound of 1999’s Pink Elephant Magic. But like her previous record, Popsicle Illusion is packed with Brackeen’s characteristic exuberance, sophistication, and diverse stylistic command.
Beginning with a 7/4 stride piano version of "If I Were a Bell," Brackeen goes on to tackle several other standards and four strong originals. She performs lightning-speed harmonic surgery on Cole Porter’s "From This Moment On" and takes "The Touch of Your Lips" at a swinging medium tempo. Donning a different hat, she delivers the stunning ballads "Prelude to a Kiss," "Bess, You Is My Woman," and even the Beatles’s "Michelle." Her originals, as usual, overflow with compositional resourcefulness and resist easy categorization: there’s the splashy "Popsicle Illusion," the Tel Aviv-inspired "Telavivision," the boogie-woogie throwback "Knickerbocker Blues," and the abstract, classically influenced piece "High Tea for Stephany." Brackeen wraps up with "Nature Boy," done faster than usual in a semi-stride style. Then there’s a special bonus: an engaging, five-minute-plus interview of Brackeen by producer Bob Karcy.