526

Joe Locke / Christos Rafalides Vibes / Mallet Duo: Van Gogh by Numbers

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Joe Locke / Christos Rafalides Vibes / Mallet Duo: Van Gogh by Numbers If jazz is a marginalized genre and the vibraphone is a marginalized instrument within that genre, then Van Gogh by Numbers—an album of vibes and marimba duets—is clearly a first. But the idea of an intimate series of mallet duets will come as no surprise to listeners familiar with Joe Locke, who's been active for over two decades but has garnered considerably more attention in recent years. Whether with his own band, Four Walls of Freedom; his collaborative New Sound Quartet, with pianist Geoffrey Keezer; or on last year's Milt Jackson tribute, Rev-Elation (Sharp Nine, 2005), Locke's intrepid and flexible nature means he always finds the deepest meaning, regardless of context.

Van Gogh by Numbers teams him with Christos Rafalides, a late-1990s graduate student of Locke's from the Manhattan School of Music. Rafalides may have been his student then, but he's on equal footing here, fully sharing the spotlight in both composition and performance. Locke stays mainly on vibes and Rafalides on marimba, the two swapping instruments only twice—on Rafalides' bright "Pandora's Dance" and Locke's poignant "Waking Now, I Wonder."

The textural nature of the two instruments—the vibes' brighter colours and the marimba's darker, woodier sound—works exceptionally well together, creating a sound that's full yet spacious. While there's room for dense harmonic clusters, the music never become cluttered. Locke's title track sets the tone for the album, often made up of long-form and winding melodies with shifting bar lines and a seamless tag-team approach to trading solo and accompaniment duties.

Locke's "Suite di Morleo" first surfaced on Four Walls of Freedom's eponymous 2003 debut, and "Movement #3: Waking Now, I Wonder" appeared in a more melancholy reading on woodwind multi-instrumentalist Tim Garland's Storms/Nocturnes (Sirocco, 2001) as "The Lost Lenore." The duo's approach to this suite proves just how malleable Locke's writing can be. The first movement features an elegant Locke solo that demonstrates just how well he can marry formidable technique with the emotional needs of a song. The second movement, while ultimately resolving into something more rhythmic, remains more a slow simmer than the energetic boil of Four Walls of Freedom. The third movement is taken at a faster pace than on Storms/Nocturnes; Locke's marimba carries the pulse, while Rafalides' vibes stand out up front with the lyrical melody.



The duo also reinvents a pair of standards. "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" becomes an idiosyncratic 9/8 romp, while Miles Davis/Bill Evans' "Blue in Green" trades in its more atmospheric origins for a surprisingly insistent pulse.

Throughout Van Gogh by Numbers Locke and Rafalides demonstrate the kind of shared understanding that explains why the duet is perhaps the most intimate of all possible musical ensembles. With only two players in the conversation, it's possible for each one to be totally focused on what the other is saying without interruption, and both Locke and Rafalides are sensitive listeners indeed.

This recording is available at CDBaby on the web.


Track Listing: Van Gogh by Numbers; Sorayia; Love is a Many Splendored Thing; Sword of Whispers; Pandora's Dance; Suite di Morleo: Movement #1: Now I Lay Me Down; Movement #2: Now in Darkness I Dream; Movement #3: Waking Now, I Wonder; Danzon en Primavera; Blue in Green.

Personnel: Joe Locke: vibes, marimba (5, 8); Christos Rafalides: marimba, vibes (5, 8).

Title: Van Gogh by Numbers | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Wire Walker


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Interview
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Taylor Street" CD/LP/Track Review Taylor Street
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 3, 2016
Read "Luisa" CD/LP/Track Review Luisa
by Matt Marshall
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Moving Still" CD/LP/Track Review Moving Still
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "Burnt Hibiscus" CD/LP/Track Review Burnt Hibiscus
by Dave Wayne
Published: January 27, 2017
Read "WANDERlust" CD/LP/Track Review WANDERlust
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 19, 2016
Read "Habana Dreams" CD/LP/Track Review Habana Dreams
by James Nadal
Published: July 5, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.