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Joe Locke: Are You Ready for Him?

By Published: November 17, 2005

AAJ: Can you remember how you felt after playing for 12 hours on the street?

JL: Oh man, it was a really deep time spiritually. It was a really formative time. It let me know that I was capable of going beyond what I thought I was capable of. That as a person, as a human being, I could actually do more than I ever thought possible. The feeling of jumping hurdles and feeling the growth of my playing, my endurance, my musical vocabulary, and also the camaraderie between musicians is something that never left me. I see cats from back in the day who were part of that scene and we share a bond that will never be broken because we actually paid those dues together. Yeah, there were incredible feelings, everything from "What am I doing here playing music from the skin of my teeth, struggling to pay my rent?' to that feeling of musical elation of "Wow, this is exactly what I want to do with my life. It doesn't get any better than this.' It's an amazing thing to be playing on the street and a limousine rolls up and Stevie Wonder gets out of the limo and stands there for 20 minutes and listens to you play. There were moments like that. And then just feeling so tired I'd put the vibes in a cab and crawl back to my apartment. [laughter]

AAJ: How is playing for an audience on the street different than playing for a paying audience? Does playing on the street feel freer or more democratic?

JL: Thank you. I say thank you because you hit something I've been thinking lately, at a time when clubs and concerts are getting prohibitive for the average person. We're living in a society where our culture is getting more divided between the haves and the have-nots and finding music that is by of and for the people is becoming too expensive for the people to enjoy. You know, U2 is a band that is politically aware and democratic in their essence but their ticket prices are $180 a pop. If someone wants to hear some jazz and to walk into a jazz club with a date to hear a set it will cost them $100. I think there's something wrong there. There was something very pure about playing on the street and playing to the people. George Braith in those days was offered many times to play in some of the jazz clubs in New York, and a couple times some of the major clubs, and I saw him turn those offers down because he very honestly in his heart and intellect knew that playing on the street is where he had artistic freedom, artistic control and he was playing for the people who he wanted to play for. I think that music is supposed to be for all the people who what it, not just the people who are fortunate enough to be wealthy.

AAJ: As a first-time Ballard Jazz Festival headliner, what are you expectations?

JL: I'm really excited about bringing the band with these particular guys because I know that Seattle has a really vital, creative music scene. I've know about it for a long time, and then when I got the chance to go to Seattle a couple times in the past year I got to check out what a good scene it is, so it's exciting for me to be able to bring something really good up to Seattle. I'm expecting to have a real hip, knowledgeable, sophisticated audience and I'm coming armed with some music that's going to be able to stand up really discerning listeners.

Visit Joe Locke on the web.

Selected Discography

Joe Locke/Milt Jackson Tribute Band, Rev-elation (Sharp Nine, 2005)
Thomas Marriott, Individuation (Origin, 2005)
Joe Locke/Four Walls of Freedom, Dear Life (Sirocco, 2004)
Joe Locke, Four Walls of Freedom (Sirocco, 2003)
Joe Locke/Storytelling, State of Soul (Sirocco, 2002)
Joe Locke, Storytelling (Sirocco, 2001)
Joe Locke/Frank Kimbrough, The Willow (Omnitone, 2001)
Joe Locke, Beauty Burning (Sirocco, 2001)
Joe Locke/David Hazeltine Quartet, Mutual Admiration Society (Sharp Nine, 1999)
Joe Locke/Frank Kimbrough, Saturn's Child (Omnitone, 1999)
Joe Locke, Slander (and Other Love Songs) (Fantasy, 1998)
Joe Locke, Sound Tracks (Fantasy, 1997)
Joe Locke, Inner Space (Steeplechase, 1996)

Download "Big Town" from Joe Locke's latest Rev-elation.

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