Joanne Brackeen

Is It Really True

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This 1991 session by pianist Joanne Brackeen, and her wonderful rhythm section of Walter Schmocker on bass and drummer Billy Hart, is one of the classical examples of her stridently open pianism that engages lyric and melody in the same way Bill Evans did, and the force and sense play of Herbie Nichols. There are only two covers here, Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and Irving Berlin's "Just in Time," and one has to wonder why she bothered. Why? Because, as evidenced by this recording alone, Brackeen is a hell of a composer. Her weighty and knotty harmonics are chameleon-like in their interchangeability from mode to interval to improvisation. Take the title track, with its lush suspended chordal body that empties extra intervals of their content, even as she accents Hart's cymbal work. In "Dr. Chu Chow," her engagement of Eastern scale and confounding rhythmic patterns offers a new view on left-handed pianism. Her crescendos are built into scalar engagements of inverted harmonics and counterpoint, and the sheer dynamic force of her pedal points are breathtaking. Yet, despite the density of her approach to structure in her solos, there is an elegant sense of space and glissando. There isn't a weak second on this disc, and, compared to her recordings of the late '70s and early '80s, it's a radical though logical departure that offers its own reward for listening.

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