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Joe Locke: Force of Four

When Joe Locke and pianist Robert Rodriguez slow the tempo, we get a tantalizing hint of what Gary Burton and Chick Corea might have sounded like if their famed duo sessions had been opened up to include bass and drums-and the notion that it wouldn’t have been a terrible idea. Bassist Ricardo Rodriguez and percussionist Johnathan Blake don’t intrude upon the exquisite vibes-piano powwow. They augment it so effectively that this CD becomes an affirmation that Locke’s new quartet is a keeper.

If Locke’s original “Ruminations” and his “Available in Blue” recall the pellucid simpatico of Crystal Silence, the quartet’s uptempo rambles take us to more distant terrain. Lines by the Rodriguezes, Robert’s “Like Joe [Henderson]” and Ricardo’s “Ricky’s Tune,” coax Locke into a youthful, virtuosic early Burton sound with occasional detours into Bobby Hutcherson. Or sample the quartet’s cover of “Laura” with its ethereal cascades and Rodriquez’s agitated keyboard work, resurrecting a group dynamic akin to the Andrew Hill combos with vibists Hutcherson and Walt Dickerson.

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