Joe Locke – Love Is A Pendulum – Motéma

Joe Locke – Love Is A Pendulum – Motéma Music MTA-CD173, 66:04 ****:

(Joe Locke – vibes; Robert Rodriguez – piano; Terreon Gully – drums; Ricky Rodriguez – acoustic and electric bass)

The long form jazz compositions that were fairly prevalent in the ‘50s and ‘60s, aided by the ubiquity of the 12-inch LP, and popularized by The Duke Ellington Orchestra with Such Sweet Thunder and The Far East Suite, Miles Davis with Sketches Of Spain, and the Modern Jazz Quartet with The Comedy and Under The Jasmine Tree appear to be making a comeback. In addition to this confident effort by Joe Locke called Love Is A Pendulum, two other recent releases fall into a similar category such as The Maria Schneider Orchestra The Thompson Fields, and The Ted Howe Jazz Orchestra’s offering entitled Pinnacle.

In this release, all arrangements and compositions are by Joe Locke. The focus of this recording is a suite of compositions that are realized from a poem by Barbara Sfrage, whereby each verse begins with a metaphor  to describe love. This work is bracketed by other Locke numbers that are independent of the longer work. While these numbers should not be dismissed, tracks 2 to 6 inclusive are the principal interest.

Starting with “Love Is The Tide” which as the poem says is ‘a pumping, surging undertow that will take you down, pop you up’ and the  music reflects this phrase  perfectly. Locke and the band capture the ebb and flow of the tide with changing rhythms and interplay that articulates the varying musical currents. In addition to Locke, pianist Rodriguez is especially assertive. “Love Is A Planchette” shifts to a light ethereal theme lead by Locke’s dancing mallets, and a steady beat from Ricky Rodriguez’s electric bass. The title track “Love Is A Pendulum” is written in a complicated harmonic structure that the liner notes indicate stem from ‘poly triads’ for which a  definition seems somewhat ambiguous. Nevertheless the music is intense and guest Rosario Giuliani’s soprano sax is front and centre.

“Love Is Letting Go” begins with an a cappella introduction from Joe Locke and is played in rubato ballad style with the alto sax of Giuliani prominently displayed. To complete this story “Love Is Perpetual Motion” is a somewhat off-kilter dissonant piece that has some intricate sax voicing from altoist Giuliani and tenor man Donny McCaslin, with the addition of Victor Provost on steel pan that builds some harmonic interest when coupled with Locke’s vibes.

The closing track is “Embrace”  based on George Gershwin’s Embraceable You. It has Victor Provost’s steel pan in a lyrical mood, setting the stage for a marvellous excursion from Joe Locke as he demonstrates the rich palette he can create on his instrument. This is a very sinewy session with plenty to chew on.

TrackList: Variation On Wisdom; Love Is The Tide; Love Is A Planchette; Love Is A Pendulum; Love Is Letting Go; Love Is Perpetual Motion; For Jesse Mountain; Last Ditch Wisdom; Embrace

—Pierre Giroux

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