Thursday, June 3, 2010

Joe Locke: For the Love of You

By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.3.10
Buy CD: For the Love of You

Thanks to Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, Terry Gibbs, Gary Burton, Cal Tjader and Milt Jackson, the vibraphone has become a key element in the jazz world.

Joe Locke joined that august group in the 1960s, and he has been an in- demand instrumentalist ever since. I'd have trouble naming a top jazz artist with whom he hasn't played.

Locke also has produced a significant discography over the years, and this album, his most recent, features one of his best quartets: He's joined by pianist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist George Mraz and drummer Clarence Penn. Although most of Locke's previous work has been instrumental in nature, for this release he added Kenny Washington, a young jazz vocalist Locke first heard at the Douglas Beach House in Half Moon Bay.

Many of the most popular jazz standards have lyrics, but they're seldom heard. This album corrects that deficiency. Washington sings those lyrics on seven of the 10 tracks; his interpretations, in conjunction with the quartet's backing, produces a very special performance.

Much of this music will be melodically familiar, but if you've forgotten the lyrics — or never heard them — you're in for a double treat. Three tracks are Locke's compositions, which you'll find as charming as the standards.

This beautiful, relaxing album presents balladic jazz at its best.

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