(Joe Locke, vibes; Robert Rodriguez, piano; Jonathan Blake, drums; Ricardo Rodriguez, bass – with special guests, Wayne Escoffery, tenor sax (#6 & # 8) and Thomas Marriott, trumpet (#4))
Joe Locke is one busy vibes man. Between a busy touring schedule, and as probably the premier first call vibes sideman, Joe keeps especially busy recording. Recording as a leader for at least eight different labels in the last 10 years, Locke has explored many jazz genres. On his latest Origin Records release, Force of Four, Joe records with a quartet on five of the tracks and adds trumpeter and label mate Thomas Marriott to No Moe, a Sonny Rollins composition where Locke drives his mates hard in boppish vein and Marriott’s solo competes for honors. Escoffery is added for Alpha Punk and Blue November. Alpha Punk is as its title implies, aggressive and edgy, while Blue November is dedicated to Mark Ledford, the multi-instrumentalist, who sadly passed away in 2004 at the young age of 44. Escoffery shines in his solo here and Jonathan Blake’s drums blend well with Locke’s shimmering vibes.
Pianist Rodriguez’ tribute to Joe Henderson, Like Joe, gives Locke and the pianist the opportunity to both go full tilt, and neither lets up the entire track. On the more contemplative side, you’ll find Ruminations and Available in Blue, where the beauty of Locke’s vibes is on full display. Along with Johnny Mercer’s classic Laura, these three tracks provide a nice contrast to the more up-tempo numbers.
Locke’s virtuosity is amazing. He largely has reintroduced the vibes as a primary instrument in jazz again. With the passing of Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton, (as well as Bobby Hutcherson’s decline in recording), Locke has taken over the mantle of the leading vibes player active today on the jazz scene. Force of Four comes highly recommended.
TrackList: Like Joe, Ruminations, Ricky’s Tune, No Moe, Available in Blue, Alpha Punk, Laura, Blue November
– Jeff Krow