The ever versatile vibraphonist extraordinaire Joe Locke returns to his early days of music-making, where he once felt that jazz was, is and "should always be, people music." On his third recording for the Motema label, Locke presents Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads Vol. 1 designed as a vehicle for people everywhere who need a respite from the troubles of the world through a landscape of light blues and soft ballads. Joining the vibraphonist for this date is long-time collaborator and friend bassist David Finck who lends his talents in helping to anchor a brash quartet in a project that will be the first in a series of recordings embracing similar themes.
Featuring the strong drumming voice of Jaimeo Brown, the music begins to sparkle on a dynamic rendition of the familiar R&B legend Bill Withers tune "Ain't No Sunshine" and continues to shine on the Locke original "Broken Toy" highlighting more of the leader's musical charm with the help of pianist Ryan Cohan. Locke is on fire taking "Bittersweet" on quite a swinging ride with stellar solos matched this time by, bassist Finck on what is essentially, an up tempo hard blues number in a soft setting repertoire. Borrowing from Bobby Troup, the music returns to a more tender texture on the beautiful "The Meaning of the Blues" then reemerges in a delicious contemporary romp on the vibrant Frank Foster composition "Simone."
Offering the only solo vibraphone introduction of the set, "This New October" is the only other original of the album offering a gentle harmonic piece of music displaying more of Locke's appreciable chops on the instrument and vote for one of the outstanding tracks of the disc. Walter Donaldson's familiar "Makin' Whoopee" gets a whole new read in an arrangement that slows down the pace yet keeps the discernible melody intact serving as one of the balladic pieces of the set.
Sticking with the ballad side of the music, Locke closes the music with the Sammy Cahn standard "Dedicated To You" in a seemingly call and response dialogue with pianist Cohan on what is definitely an album highlight. Master vibraphonist Joe Locke does something really special with Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads Vol.1 showcasing the lighter side of his music propelled by gentle ballads and bluesy notes in the first of hopefully many theme-styled recordings yet to come.
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.
Joe Locke: vibraphone; Jaimeo Brown: drums; Ryan Cohan: piano; David Finck: bass.
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