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Interviews

Joe Locke: Versatile Vibes Master

By Published: February 15, 2010

"I was listening to Return to Forever. I was listening to my older brother's records—Cream, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Procol Harem, Hendrix, Paul Butterfield and all that stuff. I was listening to Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra

Mahavishnu Orchestra
Mahavishnu Orchestra
b.1971
band/orchestra
. When you're listening to Weather Report, you'd go to the record store and see an Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
record and that guy Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
was on the record. You'd check it out. When you're listening to Return to Forever and you see Lenny White
Lenny White
Lenny White
b.1949
drums
playing drums, then you go to the record store—they had record stores back then—and you see Lenny White on a Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
album. You'd go, 'Oh. Let me check that out.' And you kind of go back that way. I think that's the way a lot of folks our age or younger got into the acoustic forms of the music."

One of his close friends, Joey Currazato, an alto saxophonist who died in 2009, was also instrumental in his music education. "He was like a jazz library. His apartment was chock-full of recordings. I could go over there and listen to music for eight hours at a time. He turned me on to everybody from Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
1932 - 2013
trumpet
, Howard McGhee
Howard McGhee
Howard McGhee
1918 - 1987
trumpet
, Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark
1931 - 1963
piano
, Art Farmer
Art Farmer
Art Farmer
1928 - 1999
flugelhorn
. Players like Pony Poindexter and Eric Kloss
Eric Kloss
Eric Kloss
b.1949
reeds
, people that maybe I would never had heard of. Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman
Hadley Caliman
1932 - 2010
saxophone
, who I had the opportunity to record with a couple years ago in Seattle. I was turned onto him by Joey Currazato. I was very lucky to have someone like him to guide me, as to the right stuff to listen to."

He adds, "The first record I heard to turn me on to what I considered the real pure jazz stuff was a Jackie McLean

Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
1932 - 2006
sax, alto
record called Let Freedom Ring (Blue Note, 1962). I started listening to a lot of Jackie's music, a lot of Blue Note records. Most influential at the time was Jackie McLean, Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
and Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
1930 - 1986
sax, tenor
. Then listening to Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' quintet with Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb
b.1929
drums
and Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
1931 - 1971
piano
, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
Julian
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley
1928 - 1975
saxophone
. People like that. I was listening to a lot of horn players and transcribing their solos as best I could. Trying to glean information from their playing."

The first album he heard with vibes was Mike Mainieri

Mike Mainieri
Mike Mainieri
b.1938
vibraphone
's Journey Through an Electric Tube (Solid State, 1968). Then Gary Burton
Gary Burton
Gary Burton
b.1943
vibraphone
's Good Vibes (Atlantic, 1970) made an impact, "where he was connecting fuzz and wah-wah pedals to the vibraphone and doing all kinds of wild stuff. Then I got hip to Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
1923 - 1999
vibraphone
and Bobby Hutcherson. Maybe Bobby before Bags. And vibes players like Dave Pike
Dave Pike
Dave Pike
b.1938
vibraphone
, Lem Winchester
Lem Winchester
Lem Winchester
1928 - 1961
vibraphone
, Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
b.1924
vibraphone
. Lesser known but very good. Roy Ayres' early records were beautiful. So I was listening to everything."

After avoiding the glockenspiel, two years of figuring out the vibraphone in the meantime and starting to absorb jazz, he was playing around Rochester at the age of 15. "After I graduated from high school I got a call to go on the road with a cat named Spider Martin, who was a tenor player in the area and a working band leader. So when I was 17 I started playing professionally, traveling and touring, getting a chance to play a record. He would bring in guests for tours and recording like Pepper Adams, Jimmy Owens

Jimmy Owens
Jimmy Owens
b.1943
trumpet
, Dizzy, Mongo Santamaria, Billy Hart
Billy Hart
Billy Hart
b.1940
drums
. On the road, he'd end up doing gigs with Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
Jack McDuff
1926 - 2001
organ, Hammond B3
, Richard "Groove" Holmes
Richard
Richard "Groove" Holmes
1931 - 1991
organ, Hammond B3
. People like that. Jimmy McGriff
Jimmy McGriff
Jimmy McGriff
1936 - 2008
organ, Hammond B3
. So I got a taste of the road and of being a professional jazz musician. I never looked back. The die was cast."

Joe LockeIn addition to getting road experience, there were other encounters that further his education. "I had the luxury of getting to do some concerts with Dizzy and listen to him tell stories," Locke notes. "I even had the opportunity, on a couple occasions, to sit with him at the piano and have him talk to me about harmony and how improvisation was all about knowing chords and the permutations of chords. I had the opportunity to room with Mongo Santamaria on some of the gigs. I used to hear great stories about his experiences as a bandleader. When I moved to New York, when I was 20 or 21, one of the first calls I got was from Walter Davis Jr.

Walter Davis Jr.
Walter Davis Jr.
1932 - 1990
piano
to do a concert and we became friends. I got the opportunity to learn some music from him. Much later on I played for a decade with Eddie Henderson, the great trumpet player. That was a great, invaluable experience for me, to get extensive time playing with someone like him."


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