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Music Review: Joe Locke – For The Love Of You

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Vibraphonist extraordinaire Joe Locke has returned with one of the most remarkable collections of his storied career. Locke has recorded over 20 albums, including the critically acclaimed Henry Mancini tribute Moment To Moment in 1995. His latest, For The Love Of You, features the sleek vocals of Kenny Washington, and is his first non-instrumental record in many years.

The ten songs that comprise For The Love Of You are an interesting mix. Leading off with the tasteful classic “Two For The Road,” Locke immediately pays tribute to hero Henry Mancini, and gets in a nice vibe solo as well.

Moving into somewhat different terrain, the group then tackles an old Isley Brothers tune with the title track. Kenny Washington's vocals are used to great effect here. Although he has been compared to Nat King Cole and Donny Hathaway, on “For The Love Of You” his phrasing reminds me more of the great Stevie Wonder.

Continuing the artistic sweep, Locke includes an arrangement of Neil Young’s “Birds.” This may be the most unique Neil Young interpretation yet, and provides a nice opportunity for the piano talents of Geoffrey Keezer. The counterpoint between the piano and vibraphone at the heart of the song is particularly effective.

Another track that benefits significantly from the vibes-piano interplay is “Pure Imagination.” This gorgeous tune was the theme to the 1971 film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder. The group give it a wonderful treatment, and Washington’s vocals are highlighted again.

Three of the cuts are instrumentals. In keeping with his eclectic interests, Locke features a later Ennio Moricone composition, the theme to Cinema Paradiso. He himself wrote the other two, “I Miss New York (When I Been Gone Too Long)” and “Bright Side Up.”

Joe Locke has received the “Mallet Player Of The Year” award from the Jazz Journalists Association for three of the past four years. To celebrate the release of For The Love Of You, he and the band will be undertaking a week-long engagement at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York from January 26 to January 31.

It should be a great gig, but if you cannot make it, I suggest picking up For The Love Of You, one of the finest vibraphone-led recordings I have heard in some time.

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About Greg Barbrick