Whatever the musical setting—whether solo, duo, trio, quartet, or quintet—pianist Joanne Brackeen's unique style of playing commands attention. In addition to her captivating and complex improvisations, she has written intricate, rhythmically daring compositions in a wide stylistic range. She is a full-time professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and a Berklee guest professor at the New School in New York City.
Brackeen was a child prodigy who at age 11, learned to play the piano in six months by transcribing eight Frankie Carle solos. By 12, she was already performing professionally. Some of her musical constituents at the time were Art Farmer, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Bobby Hutcherson, Scott Lafaro, and Charles Lloyd. Simultaneously, the Los Angeles Conservatory heard of her musicianship and offered her a full scholarship. She attended classes less than one week before deciding the bandstand was more significant.
Brackeen married and moved her family, including four children, to New York in 1965. She began her career there with such luminaries as George Benson, Paul Chambers, Lee Konitz, Sonny Stitt, and Woody Shaw among others. She joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1969, becoming the first and only female member of the group, staying until 1972. Brackeen then performed extensively with Joe Henderson (1972-75) and Stan Getz (1975-77). After leaving Stan Getz' quartet, she emerged as a leader.