Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads 1

Music Review

17 Nov 2014
Joe Locke
Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads 1
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A runner and a dancer may be equally fit and develop similar muscles but watching them ‘strutting their stuff’ elicits very different reactions. A case in point is Joe Locke's vibraphone led Lay Down My Heart. As I am partial to the sound of a vibraphone and own albums by the likes of Lionel Hampton, Terry Gibbs and Milt Jackson among others I was happy to discover another protagonist of this instrument. Locke's quartet offers a take on jazz that’s not often heard today, it is unashamedly bluesy, swingy and altogether exceedingly enjoyable. In contrast to cerebral players who push a faster and higher must be better agenda, Locke and his group prove that enjoyable need not be read as simple, and melodious does not mean uninspired. This album has the feel of the Modern Jazz Quartet, it is stylish, rich and offers a reminder of sounds that have regrettably vanished from jazz clubs.

The pieces are a mix of seductive interpretations and original material presented in expressive and rhythmic fashion by Joe Locke (vibraphone), Ryan Cohan (piano), Jaimeo Brown (drums) and David Finck (bass). It all starts with one of the best renditions I have heard of Bill Wither's Ain't No Sunshine, it transforms the intimate original into a grand swinging blues and funk piece. It also shines a new light on Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me and the old standard Makin' Whoopee.

The quartet brilliantly merges precision and playfulness, tension and speed with plenty of opportunity for each musician to show his abilities. The recording is rich and precise. The bass is large, rich and tight, and even though it presents both the piano and vibraphone in a wider than life manner, it should on the whole please the ears of audiophiles. To my ears the best two tracks are the aforementioned Wither’s song and the third track Bittersweet.  This is highly recommended to anybody who needs a musical uplift that includes verve, style, elegance, creativity and most of all enjoyability.

Reuben Klein