Joe Locke: Lay Down My Heart - Blues & Ballads Vol 1

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Joe Locke: Joe Locke: Lay Down My Heart - Blues & Ballads Vol 1 In a rarefied space, Joe Locke continues to evolve, engage and impress. There simply isn't another vibraphonist of his generation with Locke's stellar chops, thorough understanding of history/tradition—not just of jazz, but of music, period—and ability to build programs based on thematic concepts that not only stand out in his gradually growing discography, but fit contextually within it to create an actual oeuvre, an ever- expanding body of work that represents an artist whose number one priority is always the music—always the song. In the last year, since signing with Motéma Music, Locke has released Signing (2012), the forward-looking studio follow-up to his incendiary Live in Seattle (Origin, 2006), with the energetic and electric Joe Locke / Goeffrey Keezer Group, and Wish Upon a Star (2013), his ambitious, largely balladic orchestral record with Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra that presented yet another side to this unerringly inventive vibraphonist's artistry.

Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads Vol 1 may not be as groundbreaking as Signing, nor as overtly ambitious as Wish Upon a Star, but as the third part of this one-year musical triptych, it's equally important, because it's an album that demonstrates Locke's unfailing love of melody, whether it comes from the Great American Songbook, rock, R&B...or from Locke's own pen. Pianist Ryan Cohan returns from Wish Upon a Star, in a quartet rounded out by bassist David Finck—not a household name, perhaps, but, with a résumé that ranges from pianists Steve Kuhn and John Medeski to singers Tony Bennett, Paul Simon and Sting, clearly a popular choice amongst musicians—and up-and-coming drummer Jaimeo Brown, whose Transcendence (Motéma, 2013) has already garnered substantial acclaim in the two months since it was released.

Lay Down My Heart may be more about playing, and with the visceral combination of Finck's deep-in-the-gut bass and Brown's loose backbeat that kicks off the album-opening "Ain't No Sunshine," it's also clear that this is also an album that's going to groove, whether it's Locke's look at this Bill Withers' R&B classic, a version of bassist Sam Jones' "Bittersweet" that moves into a brisk double-time swing for brief but impressive solos from Locke, Cohan and Finck, or a gently funky reading of the Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn's classic, "Makin' Whoopee," where Locke's added intro to each verse reshapes the tune for the 21st century.

As much as these tunes fit the "Blues" half of Lay Down My Heart's subtitle, it's the other half that may even be closer to Locke's heart. His own compositional contributions to the record are, in fact, both ballads, though they couldn't be more different. "Broken Toy," first heard on his duo recording with pianist Frank Kimbrough, The Willow (Omnitone, 2002), unfolds with gradually increasing drama, his solo building to a peak of melodic invention and effortless virtuosity, while "This New October," written for this date, is more ethereal, his opening a cappella solo a beautiful exploration of his instrument's textural possibilities before the band enters and, again, builds to more vibrant climaxes during its solo sections.

But it may be the vibraphonist's version of Bonnie Raitt's hit, "I Can't Make You Love Me," that reveals both Locke and Lay Down My Heart's most honest vulnerablility and passion for melody. Eschewing modern reharmonization and, instead, just playing the tune—with the exception of an intro whose changes hearken back to Locke's interpretation of James Taylor's "Native Son" on Live in Seattle— and the quartet's intrinsic sense of dynamics make this a definitive reading rather than resorting to superfluous solos that would, in fact, spoil what is already a near-perfect song. Cohan does take the lead on the outro, but never loses site of the song's essence, the song's heart. Given the broad range of Locke's output in the past year, it's hard to anticipate what's coming next after the triple punch of Signing, Wish Upon a Star, and now, the utterly engaging Lay Down My Heart. With its perfect combination of song choice and performance from a vibraphonist and quartet that really know how to find and mine the core of every song, it's a sure bet that wherever Locke goes next, it'll be a trip well-worth following.

Track Listing: Ain't No Sunshine; Broken Toy; Bittersweet; I Can't Make You Love Me; The Meaning of the Blues; Simone; This New October; Makin' Whoopee; Dedicated To You.

Personnel: Joe Locke: vibes; Jaimeo Brown: drums; Ryan Cohan: piano; David Finck: bass.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Motema Music | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

Related Video


CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Ahmad Jamal Ahmad Jamal
Chick Corea Chick Corea
Bobby Hutcherson Bobby Hutcherson
Mike Mainieri Mike Mainieri
Gary Burton Gary Burton
Milt Jackson Milt Jackson
Ralph Towner Ralph Towner
Astor Piazzolla Astor Piazzolla
Stefon Harris Stefon Harris
Teddy Charles Teddy Charles
Steve Nelson Steve Nelson

More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Tender Heart: Songs Of Tom Giacabetti And Melissa Gilstrap" Extended Analysis Tender Heart: Songs Of Tom Giacabetti And Melissa Gilstrap
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: September 27, 2016
Read "Peter Case: Peter Case" Extended Analysis Peter Case: Peter Case
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures" Extended Analysis Jasper Høiby: Fellow Creatures
by Phil Barnes
Published: August 21, 2016
Read "Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny" Extended Analysis Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 30, 2016
Read "Vitor Pereira Quintet: New World" Extended Analysis Vitor Pereira Quintet: New World
by Phil Barnes
Published: March 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!