Consider the following: A musical concept that allows for total freedom within the context of the four walls of melody, rhythm, harmony and form is brought to fruition. Each player brings to this space instrumental virtuosity, a unique timbre, and a personal sense of dynamics and coloration. The first heady energetic foray into these circumscribed confines is a success. But then terrible tragedy strikes outside the walls and we learn how Dear Life really is.
With last year's 4 Walls of Freedom , vibraphonist Joe Locke accomplished his conceptual and compositional goals. By combining the powerful energy of Bob Berg's tenor sax with his own instrument's unique voice, Locke became a force to reckon with on the international jazz landscape. With the tragic death of Berg, Locke has enlisted Scottish tenor man Tommy Smith and a rhythm section of drummer Gary Novak and bassist Ed Howard to reflect on and celebrate the dearness of life.
The extended "Wind In Your Willow" shows Smith to have a relaxed rounded tone as he effectively brings the piece to a point where some inventive soloing can come to the fore. Locke, as would an experienced pianist, excels at augmenting Smith with intriguing vibraphonic chords and then stepping in himself to stretch the boundaries. By mastering the vibraphone's subtle chordal abilities, he is able to effect what amounts to an orchestral sound in concert with Novak's expansive drumming. This is evident in the title piece, which proves to be a moving composition of awe and reverence. The vibes' exquisite coloration capabilities are utilized to differentiate amongst faint shades of grey on an ethereal solo interpretation of pianist Renee Rosnes' "Manhattan Rain," while "Verazano Moon" equally has Smith delicately displaying admiration for the beauty of celestial wonder. Dear Life successfully reflects on unanswerable questions within the space of Locke's four walls.
Track Listing: Wind in Your Willow; Dear Life; Cut and Paste; Eva; Ennui; For B.B.; Manhattan Rain; Malonius; Verrazano Moon
Personnel: Joe Locke (vibes, midi vibes, marimba), Tommy Smith (tenor saxophone), Ed Howard (acoustic bass), Gary Novak (drums)