Vibraphonist Joe Locke has been a much in demand session musician for several years but steps out as a leader and composer in impressive fashion on “Slander (And Other Love Songs)”.
Locke’s “Song For Cables”, commences with verve and exhilaration as the seasoned rhythm section of Rufus Reid (b) and Gene Jackson (d) set an up-tempo and furious pulse underneath Locke’s multi-colored vibes. Here and throughout Locke displays blistering hand speed with his mallets. The vastly under recognized guitarist, Vic Juris adds a melodic edge with a fine solo as the omnipresent theme is pleasant and memorably melodic. Stevie Wonder’s “Tuesday Heartbreak” features more well stated guitar work from Juris as the rhythm section packs a mean yet unobtrusive punch. Locke’s thoughtful and passionate soloing insinuates the familiar melody as opposed to staying within any boundaries; hence, Wonder’s composition is re-worked as a viable jazz tune and the results are extremely rewarding. The theme from the 1960’s hit TV show “Mission Impossible” is a perfect vehicle for Locke, as Juris and pianist Billy Childs both provide color and a sense of urgency behind Locke’s multifaceted approach.
Joni Mitchell’s classic “Blue” features wonderful and sprightly harmonies from Locke and Childs as they rework the theme in various flavors showing depth and ingenuity. Locke’s “Cecil B. Debop” is straight-ahead bop with a nice melodic hook and some crafty unison lines by Locke and Childs. The title cut, Locke’s “Slander” features an extensive solo by Childs which crosses bop, blues and swing via alternating time signatures.
On “Slander (And Other Love Songs)”, Locke displays strong leadership attributes and a good pen. Overall, the group interplay and dialogue is focused, as many of the solos are brief giving way to more of a group feel and sound. “Slander”(And Other Love Songs)” is a strong outing and stacks up as one 1999’s best picks in the mainstream jazz category.