Joe Locke: Slander

Further establishing himself as one of jazz’s preeminent vibraphonists, Joe Locke focuses on his own compositions and surrounds himself with a cadre of veterans on this, his third solo outing for Milestone.

The first two tracks provided a one-two punch that leaves no question regarding Locke’s talents as either a writer or a player. “Song for Cables” is a vibrant, up tempo modal number that grooves mightily, features some nice contrasting sections and modulations, and is graced by burning contributions from Locke, guitarist Vic Juris, pianist Billy Childs, and drummer Gene Jackson. The follow-up number, “Saturn’s Child,” is a meditative ballad/waltz that shows its author’s sensitive, lyrical side as much as the previous cut demonstrates his penchant for unrestrained blowing. On the surface, some of the numbers in the heart of the set seem to be unlikely candidates for jazz improvisation; however, “Mission Impossible” quickly opens up into an effective forum for Locke’s funkier tendencies, while Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” is transformed into a model of melodic tranquility. The closer, “Second Story Man,” is a frantic workout with twisting chord changes that Locke negotiates with imagination and exceptional fluidity-elements that regularly surface throughout this fine performance.