Joe Locke – Lay Down My Heart – Blues and Ballads Volume 1
(Motéma Music 121. CD Review by Jeanie Barton)
A vibraphone quartet cannot help but put me in mind of the Modern Jazz Quartet and that era of cool in the 1950s/60s. They were of course hugely commercially popular, and New York based vibraphonist Joe Locke’s newest release, Lay Down My Heart aims similarly to be “People music” with “no highbrow concept”.
The songs he chooses for this album (seven cover songs and two self penned compositions) are connected and inspired by the blues in either form or concept; these include some pop/soft rock numbers like the opening track, Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers and I Can’t Make You Love Me by Michael Reid and Allen Shamblin.
Bittersweet by Sam Jones features parallel bop playing by both Ryan Cohan on piano and Joe, which takes us back to the MJQ vibe, walking piano basslines evoke films like the Pink Panther and chromatically cascading arpeggio features remind me of Nina Rota’s more kooky soundtracks – very retro.
Other numbers are more standard, like The Meaning of the Blues by Bobby Troup, actor, pianist and songwriter best known for penning (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, and being married to Julie London, also Making Whoopee by Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn and Dedicated to You by Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin.
This quartet with Jaimeo Brown on drums and David Finck on bass are as slick as you would expect a New York ensemble to be; Simone by Frank Foster gives some indication of what you might expect of the rhythm section should you see them in a jazz club – they really open out with beautiful, tight yet loose solos.
Joe’s own numbers, Broken Toy and This New October both explore space and tensions or rather, relaxations I would say – the soaring lingering notes almost put me in mind of relaxation CDs.
I have played this album from start to finish perhaps six times in the background and was reticent to say that I kept zoning out and not really taking it in. However, having read Joe’s foreword, which states that this compilation is “meant to provide respite for folks who work hard every day and need an opportunity to slow down and be reacquainted with that certain ‘something’ which eludes most of us in the midst of the whirlwind which is modern life” I realise that, perhaps, as a new mother, this CD does indeed provide me with what I lack – a quiet mind! Thanks for the break Joe.