Joe Locke: Sticks and Strings & Both Sides of the Fence
Peeved when my MacBook continuously spit out the new Joe Locke CD Sticks and Strings, my resentment vanished upon the moment I finally heard its opening notes. Locke's vibraphone chimes with a brilliance that vanquishes dingy demeanors instantly. Sticks and Strings' gleaming lacquer modulates between swank substance and serendipitous originality. With one part nostalgia ("A Word Before You Go") and two parts innovation ("Terzani"), the disc's shiny varnish spawns from a wonderful combination of Locke's sparkling vibes and the gregariously comforting vernacular of Jonathan Kreisberg's guitar. The two instruments combine in cheerful pandemonium, enhancing each other with acoustic resonances and electric impulses.
"Sword of Whispers," one of five of the album's nine tracks written by Locke, flows smoothly with a laidback melody, seducing with soft curves and an attractive beat. The vibraphonist lays down a languid phrase while drummer Joe LaBarbera expertly fills in appropriate low-key flourishes while keeping steady time, a theme throughout the disc, especially on "Terzani," where time and tempo constantly adjust. The track is also a springboard for Locke to kick up the frequency, hammering out fast syncopation that blisters charmingly. Later on in the tune, Kreisberg plays a strange chord sequence that casts an intriguing aura of texture versus time; interesting structural sequences like this occur frequently among all the players. One magical moment happens on "A Word Before You Go" when all four sync perfectly.
Bassist Jay Anderson contributes an essential grounding element to the vibraphone and guitar. Without the reliable guidance and low tones of his instrument, there's no knowing where Locke and Kreisberg might end up. The bassist wrote the album's opening track "Time Like the Present," an atmospheric nod to modern jazz that in no small part aided in the reversal of my aforementioned sulky disposition. LaBarbera steers the group into slightly darker atmospheres with his original "Sixth Sense" to end the album, while "All of You" and "I Fall In Love Too Easily" fill in a 'standard' void, which wasn't really a void at all. Mightn't it have been nice to have an album full of originals?
Trumpet and flugelhorn player Thomas Marriott weaves three originals with six standards and classics like Chick Corea's "Tones For Joan's Bones" on his new album Both Sides of the Fence. Locke lends his metal mallets to both the Corea tune and track two, "So Near, So Far," dosing the disc with a spunkiness not entirely apparent in the rest of the album's lovely ease. West Coast sax man (and flute man) Hadley Caliman tinges "What the Mirror Said" with a little bit of grit as he plays a short solo in between Marriott's sweetly elongated horn lines and Marc Seales' softly glowing vibes. Plaintive luxury, utterly.
Tracks and Personnel
Sticks and Strings
Tracks: Time Like The Present; The Rosario Material; Sword Of Whispers; Terzani; All Of You; A Word Before You Go; Appointment In Orvieto; I Fall In Love Too Easily; Sixth Sense.
Personnel: Joe Locke: vibes; Jonathan Kreisberg: electric and acoustic guitars; Jay Anderson: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums.
Both Sides of the Fence
Tracks: Both Sides Of The Fence; So Near, So Far; The Ninnen; Summer Night; New World A Comin'; Sky Dive; The Breeze And I; What The Mirror Said; Tones For Joan's Bones.
Personnel: Thomas Marriott Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Marc Seales Piano & Fender Rhodes; Jeff Johnson Bass; John Bishop Drums; Joe Locke Vibes (2 & 9); Hadley Caliman Tenor Saxophone (8).