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Popsicle Illusion: Press Release


Joanne Brackeen is one of jazz’s most prized possessions: a virtuoso pianist and master composer who epitomizes the history and evolution of jazz from traditional to free, and everything in between; all with a contemporary edge. Arkadia Jazz is pleased to announce the release of Popsicle Illusion, Joanne's tour-de-force solo piano recording. Popsicle Illusion is the follow up to Pink Elephant Magic, her Grammy nominated debut recording on Arkadia.
"Joanne's talent is immeasurable and this recording shows her many dimensions," says Arkadia CEO Bob Karcy. "It's unbelievable! We came up with the idea of a solo piano album, and everything she played was incredible…witty, complex, beautiful…she has it all." Popsicle Illusion has a generous selection of standards and originals, all with the distinctive Brackeen touch.

Leading off the disc is a stride version of Frank Loesser's If I Were a Bell from Guys and Dolls. Perhaps as allusion to the gambling motif of the musical, Joanne's version is in 7/4, a risk taking odd meter not usually associated with the stride piano style.
"It has another dimension when you put it 7/4, it's more rhythmical" says Joanne. "Plus I had never recorded anything in seven for solo piano." When you roll the dice, number 7 is the winning combination, and Joanne has a winner here!

Lennon and McCartney's Michelle, treated as a deeply felt chamber piece, crescendos with the complex reharmonization of the melody in a darker and more delicate mood. The song is like an arch; the solos are built into the form, sonic hues and dynamics become more overt and then recede into silence.

Joanne's own compositions are showcased as well. The rhythmically dense Popsicle Illusion is full of twists and turns. "It doesn't go exactly where you think it will," says Joanne. "It has repeats and keeps going back to the same place, but it's a tiny bit different. Like if you have a popsicle and you go to take another lick, and it's melted!" Similarly, Telavivision is another odd meter romp that has echoes of the Mid-East and New York all rolled into one. "It has one part that has structured odd-meters and another part that has a blues form." And speaking of the blues,

Knickerbockers is named for the New York City club at which Joanne frequently plays, and indeed is a blues. Joanne's idiosyncratic nature shines through, complete with harmonic and rhythmic extensions that are completely her own.

High Tea for Stephanie may be the most challenging track on the CD- it defies categorization, a sort of Bud Powell, Cecil Taylor and Prokofiev meeting of the minds. With wild arpeggios, ominous, thick chords and an abstract center solo, is this "New Music" or jazz? You be the judge as Joanne reaches into areas rarely explored by jazz pianists today.

For those who like a familiar tune to hum along with, there is Cole Porter's From This Moment On (treated as blistering bebop), Ray Noble's bouncing, lighthearted The Touch Of Your Lips, Gershwin's Bess, You Is My Woman as a sensitive ballad, as is Ellington's Prelude to a Kiss. The masterful, bluesy Nature Boy closes out the session. Every song has the signature Brackeen interpretation that is bound to turn a few heads in amazement. This is Joanne's first studio solo piano recording and, as are all her projects, Popsicle Illusion is a creative, witty, diverse and complex statement from the artist. An Arkadia extra feature has an interview with Joanne at the end of the disc where she talks about some of the compositions and circumstances that led to their creation. It gives a glimpse into the mind of one of jazz's most original composers and shows the listener her personality as well.

Joanne’s unique sound was honed through a period of apprenticeship with some of the world’s greatest names: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, and the list goes on. Since the mid 70’s, Joanne has been at the forefront of new music, recording over 20 albums as a leader with some of the most respected musicians in jazz. Her playful and complex sense of time, rhythm and mood permeates her original repertoire, which now numbers close to 300 compositions. Joanne has been awarded two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, leading to solo performances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. In the mid 80's, the US State Department sponsored her tour of the Middle East and Europe. She also has served on the NEA grant panel, and currently teaches as a faculty member at the New School in New York City and is a Professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She also maintains a full concert and club schedule around the world.

Her creative output is undiminished since starting out on her career as a leader, with no end in sight. In 1998, she joined the ranks of New York's Arkadia Jazz, and her debut release, Pink Elephant Magic featured some of the best young players on the jazz scene today (Nicholas Payton, Chris Potter, John Patitucci, and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez). Potter was honored with A Grammy Nomination for his solo on a Brackeen original, In Vogue. Arkadia Jazz is proud to present Joanne Brackeen and her first album of the new century.

About Arkadia Jazz

A full-service label started in 1997 by Bob Karcy, Arkadia Jazz has earned four Grammy nominations (the most of any independent label in the jazz category) and wide acclaim as "The Artists Choice"."Arkadia is a new label whose recordings to date have been meticulous, high-quality productions with focus and purpose" Thomas Conrad, Stereophile. The label has released CD's by Billy Taylor, David Liebman and Joanne Brackeen (both Grammy nominees on Arkadia Jazz), T.K. Blue, Mary Pearson, Benny Golson (also nominated for a Grammy), Kenny Drew Jr. and David Lahm, among others. The twice Grammy nominated "Thank You" series includes tributes to Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, Duke Ellington and Joe Henderson. In June of 1999, Arkadia acquired the esteemed Postcards label, and is expanding its catalog into the world and classical music areas. Postcards new releases are classical pianist Lara Downes and bassist Joris Teepe with Don Braden and Chris Potter.

Arkadia Jazz is a label of Arkadia Records, a natural extension of V.I.E.W. Video, founded by Karcy 17 years ago. V.I.E.W. is widely acknowledged to be the premiere home video producer and label in jazz, performing arts (opera, dance and classical music) and special interest (documentary, parenting, sports, health & fitness) with a catalog in excess of 200 titles (go to that have been honored with over 100 prestigious international awards. For consumers who would like the name of the nearest retailer, or to receive a catalog, call toll-free, 1-888-ARKADIA. Arkadia's website can be found at

Joanne Brackeen: Popsicle Illusion
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