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July/August 1999

Joanne Brackeen
Pink Elephant Magic
Arkadia Records

For her debut album on this increasingly productive label, pianist/composer Brackeen brought in seven strikingly original and varied originals, three standards, and a small clutch of musicians with all of the jazz chops necessary to do them full justice. What's more, even further variety is achieved by the use of five different instrumentations on the ten tracks: a basic piano trio, with bassist John Pantucci and drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, on the down-home blues, "Ghost Butter," Jobim's "Wave," and the warhorse samba, "Tico Tico"; the trio plus vocalist Kurt Elling's humor-infused scat and Dave Liebman's sinuous soprano on "What's Your Choice, Rolls Royce?"; the full quintet, with trumpeter Nicholas Payton and sopranist/tenorman Chris Potter added, on the swinging "Pink Elephant Magic," the difficult, ultra bright "Cram 'N Exam," and, with percussionist Jamey Haddad joining the rhythm, the multi-cultured "Beethoven Meets the Millennium in Spain"; a highly personalized solo piano treatment of Brubeck's "Strange Meadowlark"; and two widely contrasting sax and rhythm numbers, "In Vogue," with Potter, and "Filene's," with Liebman. Although there are some commendable horn solos here and there, the focus throughout is mainly centered on Brackeen the pianist and composer.

Originally published in July/August 1999
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