Saturday, June 01, 2013

Joe Locke - NYC Jazz Record

Joe Locke
Lay Down My Heart

Vibraphonist Joe Locke has released over a dozen
albums under his name in the last ten years. This most
recent release was recorded in a single day last October
with help from pianist Ryan Cohan, bassist David
Finck and drummer Jaimeo Brown. The blues and
ballads theme is a long running one with a wide range
of implied settings. From Lonnie Johnson’s pass-the-hat
Bluesville releases to McCoy Tyner’s simmering
standards, the theme has broad potential. This version
is pretty direct. The quartet tackles a handful of tunes
that are more blues-implied than strict 12-bar workouts,
with some radio-friendly ballads scattered throughout.
Vol. 1 suggests more to come. Considering Locke’s
work ethic, he could produce another 364 this year.

“Ain’t No Sunshine” opens the record with a
punctual solo from Locke over the stop-start groove of
the band. On a similarly well-worn adult contemporary
standard, Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”,
the band approaches at a similar clip as the original. In
fact, Locke’s band could be interchangeable, with a
similarly unobtrusive piano part but with a marginally
brighter pulse from Brown’s kit.

The nicest aspect of the record is Locke’s tone. He
gets a warm sound from his vibraphone, which can
occasionally get hypnotic with its oscillating hum
lulling on the long notes. But the band can pick up the
tempo too. The quartet digs into a brisk blues on Sam
Jones’ “Bittersweet”, Locke roaring into a rapid solo
while Finck gets a chance to swing in the spotlight,
offering a healthy dose of melody and technique.
A pair of tunes from the Great American Songbook
closes out the album: “Makin’ Whoopee” is transformed
into a swaggering triple meter stride while “Dedicated
to You” is a languid duet between vibes and piano.
Like the rest of the album, it’s a gentle track that can
hover somewhere without being distracting. The band
is crisp and clean throughout but it wouldn’t hurt to
throw a little dirt on Volume 2.

Joe Locke @ NYC Jazz Record

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