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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.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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