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Joe Locke: Love Is A Pendulum

Troy Collins By

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Since the late '80s vibraphonist Joe Locke, an artist who defies categorization, has performed and recorded with a diverse array of musicians, including Eddie Henderson, Cecil Taylor, and The Beastie Boys. Love Is A Pendulum, his fourth release on the Harlem-based Motema label, features some of Locke's most compelling music to date, the centerpiece of which is a five movement suite based on a poem by musician and writer Barbara Sfraga.

Culled from Sfraga's Subway Series, Locke explains in the liner notes that "Each verse begins with a metaphor describing love—its properties and tendencies—and how (possibly) to navigate them." Far from a one-sided affair, the suite encompasses a wide range of emotions, keenly interpreted by Locke's highly responsive working quartet with pianist Robert Rodriguez, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, and drummer Terreon Gully, who are subsequently joined by occasional guests, including alto and soprano saxophonist Rosario Giuliani, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, guitarist Paul Bollenback, steel pan virtuoso Victor Provost and vocalist Theo Bleckmann.

The through-composed fanfare "Variation On Wisdom" introduces the suite in magisterial fashion, setting the stage for "Love Is The Tide," which emulates surging power through ebbing rhythms and fluid solos, whereas "Love Is A Planchette" features Bleckmann's ethereal vocalese floating spectrally, like a planchette across a ouija board. The episodic title track and the rubato ballad "Love Is Letting Go" similarly explore myriad moods, while the climactic final movement, "Love Is Perpetual Motion," opens with a series of heated alto and tenor exchanges between Giuliani and McCaslin before spotlighting the beguiling kaleidoscopic interplay of vibes and steel pan.

The album concludes with three compositions that are stylistically comparable to the main program: the tunefully introspective dedication "For Jesse Mountain"; a blazing hard-bop work-out on "Last Ditch Wisdom"; and "Embrace," based on George Gershwin's "Embraceable You," which was conceived by Locke as a vehicle for Provost's melodic ingenuity.

The quartet's intuitive rapport and the invited guests' spontaneous contributions impart soulful verve to Locke's written notation, collectively bringing the leader's multifaceted charts to life. One of the most ambitious efforts in Locke's discography, Love Is A Pendulum is a captivating example of today's finest creative mainstream jazz.

Track Listing: Variation On Wisdom; Love Is The Tide; Love Is A Planchette; Love Is A Pendulum; Love Is Letting Go; Love Is Perpetual Motion; For Jesse Mountain; Last Ditch Wisdom; Embrace.

Personnel: Joe Locke: vibes; Robert Rodriguez: piano; Terreon Gully: drums; Ricky Rodriguez: acoustic and electric bass; Rosario Giuliani: alto saxophone (2, 5-8) and soprano saxophone (4); Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone (6, 7); Victor Provost: steel pan (6, 9); Theo Bleckmann: voice (3); Paul Bollenback: guitar (1, 7).

Title: Love Is A Pendulum | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Motema Music

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