Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In review--Lifting Vibrations

Joe Locke 
Lay Down My Heart
Blues & Ballads, Vol. 1 

On his January release, Wish Upon a Star, jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke paired up with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra exploring rich harmonics of popular songs.  And on Lay Down My Heart, Locke dives into blues and ballads thus creating another set of relaxing songs for people to unwind at the end of the day (this mission mentioned in the liner notes).  Opening with Bill Wither’s signature tune, Ain’t No Sunshine, we might say that the musical journey also heads down memory lane.  The bluesy cover Makin' Whoopee (Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn), offers a similar respite.

Locke’s original, Broken Toy possesses a sweet and lilting motif that both charms and relaxing with its interlocking vibraphone and piano.  Bittersweet (Sam Jones) picks up the tempo in be bop fashion.  Then the pace slows way down on I Can’t Make You Love Me (Michael Reid/Allen Shamblin) which melds blues with new age and jazz.  On Meaning of the Blues (Bobby Troup), the piano, bass, brushes on cymbals and vibraphone create a warm and romantic atmosphere and in fact, I believe this is my favorite song on the recording.  The quartet (Jaimeo Brown-drums, Ryan Cohen-piano, David Finck-bass and Locke-vibraphone) grooves hard on Frank Foster’s Simone, then the musicians explore new harmonic territory on Locke’s This New October.  The album closes with delightful Dedicated to You (Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin).

I’m giving a pre-listen (among many) to this recording on a rainy April Sunday in the Pacific Northwest.  My senses are heightened anyway with fragrant spring flowers, the soft rain cleansing the earth and Joe Locke’s vibraphone and these arrangements hit the spot.  I believe that Type A personalities especially could unwind listening to these arrangements and also enjoy the intricate weave of percussion and melodic instruments.  If you listen closely, you can hear the musicians’ hearts and souls.

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