Over the past decade Joe Locke has become one of the most heralded vibraphonists on the jazz scene. For this CD, Locke is joined by pianist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist George Mraz, drummer Clarence Penn and vocalist Kenny Washington - Vocals, who is featured generously throughout. Locke heard Washington performing at Half Moon Bay in California and invited him to join his band for a set at Dizzy's Club in 2007, an event that has since taken place annually.
Washington is a soulful yet subtle tenor who doesn't get carried away with showing off, instead focusing on embellishing great lyrics ever so slightly. Following a leisurely stroll through "Two For the Road," the band swings through the old chestnut "Old Devil Moon" with generous features for all. The tense Latin backdrop for Washington in the breezy setting of "The Shadow of Your Smile" beautifully updates this decades-old favorite while Ennio Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso" features Mraz's warm arco playing in this romantic ballad.
There are also a few surprises. The Isley Brothers' "For the Love of You" is transformed into a viable jazz ballad, suggesting a sunset with someone special. Neil Young's "Birds" is the most unlikely tune, but Locke's understated arrangement makes it work, Washington doing his part with a spacious relaxed vocal. Locke also includes two originals, the tender "Verrazano Moon" and the driving post-bopper "Bright Side Up."
Track Listing: Two For The Road; Old Devil Moon; For The Love Of You; Verrazano Moon; I Miss New York (When I Been Gone Too Long; Birds; The Shadow Of Your Smile; Cinema Paradiso; Pure Imagination; Bright Side Up.
Personnel: Joe Locke: vibes; Geoffrey Keezer: piano; George Mraz: bass; Clarence Penn: drums; Kenny Washington: vocals.