Jazz pianist Joanne Brackeen has a left hand that is not to be denied. It made a tough, aggressive attack at the One Step Down Friday night that showed the lie in any presumption that female musicians only play delicately and lyrically. Brackeen's left hand had a percussive, rhythmic weight that made a drummer unnecessary and freed her duo partner--famed acoustic bassist Eddie Gomez--for harmonic work. Brackeen relentlessly pursued chord inversions and changes until her left hand progressions resembled melodic lines. Her agile, imaginative (but sometimes overly busy) right hand was anchored by the no-nonsense insistence of her left hand.
Brackeen concentrated on her compositions from a new album with Gomez. Since recording them the duo has improved the tunes markedly by stripping them of excess. The sharp, angular phrases of the avant-garde "Einstein" were executed in unison with pointed, purposeful offshoots and telling pauses. On "Evening in Concert," Brackeen's two hands chased each other through quick changes and thick chords till the right hand spun off in a single-note digression before being pulled back by the left hand's earthy gravity. "Friday the 13th" was a more humorous blues: Gomez swung persuasively, and Brackeen toyed playfully with the repeating phrases.