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Joe Locke Quartet: Sticks and Strings

After Joe Locke’s recorded collaborations with pianists such as Kenny Barron, Billy Childs, Frank Kimbrough, Dave Hazeltine and Geoff Keezer, as well as with guitarist Vic Juris, along comes up-and-coming guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg to help produce perhaps the vibraphonist’s finest CD to date. There are no wasted notes here, and no aimless technical displays. Locke and Kreisberg seem to inspire each other to creative heights, with the exemplary backing of bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Joe La Barbera.

Anderson’s reflective ballad, “Time Like the Present,” features Locke and Kreisberg’s typically graceful unison theme reading, leading to emotionally moving solos by vibes, guitar and bass. Locke’s “The Rosario Material” is an intricate line, allowing Locke to exhibit his stunning command, sharp logic and varied attack. Kreisberg’s dampened, almost delicate tone and effortlessly executed extended lines impress both here and elsewhere on this session. “Sword of Whispers” is a Locke tune somewhat reminiscent of one of his finest compositions, “Saturn’s Child,” in its stair-stepping melody and similar resolution. Kreisberg switches to acoustic guitar for this, to great effect both in support and in his distinctive Spanish-classical-flavored solo. The performance of Locke’s “Terzani” reminds one of Gary Burton and Pat Metheny, Kreisberg’s riveting solo climaxing with skillful use of distortion. The soulful “A Word Before You Go” contains a testifying Locke solo and a rockish Kreisberg, bending notes with controlled abandon. “Appointment in Orvieto” has a loosely disguised “Giant Steps” modal framework, unleashing breakneck Locke and Kreisberg excursions. “Sixth Sense,” La Barbera’s Monkish composition, produces still more intense solos by the leader and guitarist. The two standards, “All of You” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” are treated reverently but distinctively, and the improvisations on these are brilliant and thoroughly engaging.

Originally Published