Jazz vibraphone has come a long way since the glory days of Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson, pioneers of bebop and post bop styles respectively. Joe Locke, an individualist who bridges the divide between the past and future perfect, has always pushed the envelope, but here he’s happily landed at the intersection of head and heart.
His best recording, Love Is A Pendulum, is anchored by a five-part suite of songs of exquisite creativity and gives listeners a refreshing twist on the lush vamps and harmonics one’s used to hearing.
Locke’s affection for strong romantic melodies gives the album its unsinkable musicality. He’s got a swoon-worthy band with juggernaut percussion by drummer Terreon Gully (the record’s co-producer), and exceptional work by pianist Robert Rodriguez and bassist Ricky Rodriguez. Also invited to play is vocalist Theo Bleckmann who scores with a shimmering “Love Is A Planchette,” and Victor Provost on steel pans that, when played in tandem with the vibes, pull you deeper into Locke’s soul-kissed arrangements. Locke’s masterwork heaves and flows with a modern beat that’s consistently appealing.
The current generation of players like Stefon Harris, Warren Wolf and the jazz master Gary Burton continue to push forward as progressive, modern jazz players, but Joe Locke’s particular vision on Love Is A Pendulum is going to give other musicians a reason to catch up.
(9 tracks; 66 minutes)