On Beauty Burning, the fourteenth release under his own name, it’s clear that vibraphonist Joe Locke was interested in making a good recording rather than merely providing a showcase for his own considerable talents. The disc is a thoughtful mixture of intimate, finely tuned ensemble playing and capable solos by the leader, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Ray Drummond, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, and guitarist Paul Bollenback. Recording shortly after the band (minus Bollenback) played an engagement in New York, their empathy and willingness to listen to one another is evident on every cut. With the exception of Bollenback, each musician contributes at least one tune, and the material also includes compositions by Chick Corea, Darrell Grant, and Lional Bart.
At his most assertive, such as on the lively “Litha,” Locke’s long, skittering lines are balanced by reflective, blues influenced passages. Kimbrough’s solo on the same track sustains the vibraphonist’s momentum, and Watts backs them both with insistent rhythms. “Twilight” is smooth jazz with substance, with Locke playing more deliberately and displaying considerable intelligence and wit. His “Somewhere Waiting” (which would make a great theme for a movie soundtrack) features a fine solo turn by Drummond. The bassist’s “I-95” is mysterious-sounding stroll in which Watts fuels Locke’s busy, intense solo.
The empathy between Locke and Kimbrough on last year’s release, Saturn’s Child (OmniTone), is once again apparent in the ballad “Where Is Love.” Their duet is filled with understated pleasures, such as Locke’s beautiful voicing of the melody, his figures behind Kimbrough’s graceful solo, and their penchant for augmenting and finishing each other’s phrases.
Track List:Litha; Twilight; Pools of Amber; Somewhere Waiting; Quite As It’s Kept; Where Is Love; I-95; Rasputainian Dance.