Joe Locke has emerged as one of the dominant jazz vibraphonists in recent years, releasing several outstanding CDs with various musical partners. Force of Four is no exception, a tight post-bop session with a new quartet: pianist Robert Rodriguez, bassist Ricardo Rodriguez and drummer Johnathan Blake.
The pianist contributed "Like Joe," a tribute to Joe Henderson, which incorporates rapid-fire lines with a Latin undercurrent reminiscent of the late tenor saxophonist. Locke's understated "Available in Blue" is an introspective ballad that proves captivating, while his tense, rockish "Alpha Punk" utilizes electric piano and adds guest tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. Ricardo Rodriguez penned the shimmering Latin-flavored "Ricky's Tune," which quickly settles into a breezy groove. Sonny Rollins' "No Moe" (which the saxophone icon recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet) is a bit of an obscurity, but Locke's sassy arrangement reconfigures it in a more contemporary setting, adding guest trumpeter Thomas Marriott.
The leader's unusual scoring of the standard "Laura" has the band playing a wild vamp behind him as he sticks close to the melody. The electric piano and Escoffery both return for "Blue November," a playful, slightly funky piece by vibraphonist Christos Rafalides, a student of Locke's who has both performed and recorded an excellent duo album with his former teacher. Locke continues to stretch the boundaries of the vibraphone with this rewarding session, which should be a high atop any post-bop fan's Christmas list.
Track Listing: Like Joe; Ruminations; Ricky's Tune; No Moe; Available in Blue; Alpha Punk; Laura; Blue November.
Personnel: Joe Locke: vibes; Robert Rodriguez: piano; Johnathan Blake: drums; Ricardo Rodriguez: bass; Wayne Escoffery: tenor sax (6, 8); Thomas Marriott: trumpet (4).
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