Joe Locke Discovers His Lingua Franca On Subtle Disguise


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Not only has he mastered an instrument that has catapulted only a handful of players to the forefront of modern jazz—but he has done so in a way that transcends mere technique and establishes him as a unique and adventurous musical voice. —Derk Richardson, The San Francisco Bay Guardian
Available on November 16, 2018 from Origin Records
CD Release Celebration: Nov. 17 @ Scullers, Boston, MA

For several years now vibraphonist/composer/bandleader Joe Locke has had two musical purposes: one, to speak in a vernacular which reaches people, and two, to continue challenging himself as a player, writer and arranger. In 2013 Locke released Lay Down My Heart (Blues & Ballads, Vol. 1), which dealt with the first directive. Then in 2015 he completed the astounding Love Is a Pendulum, a suite in five movements, which addressed the second. Now, on his newest release, Subtle Disguise (available on Origin Records, November 16, 2018), both of these impulses have been integrated into one recording. “For me, this album is the fruition of a long journey of self discovery as an artist, where I no longer see the different aspects of my musical personality as separate or at odds with one another. I have discovered my own lingua franca, connecting the seemingly disparate styles I enjoy playing," says Locke.

Subtle Disguise would not have come to actualization were it not for Locke's collaborators: Locke states that, “Raul Midón's contribution was essential to the project. His vast musical knowledge combined with his deep understanding of the Blues make him a unique artist. The same can be said of guitarist Adam Rogers; he dips into a lot of different stylistic territory on this album, and he's always brilliant, honest and deeply communicative. David Binney brings the fire, pure and simple. His contributions raise the bar on the tracks he graces. All three of these musicians are people I've been looking to work with for a long time. Having them together here made this project even more special for me," explained Locke. “Jim Ridl, Lorin Cohen and Samvel Sarkisyan, who form the core of this band, have been hugely important to the development of this project since its inception. Each a formidable musician in his own right, together they function as a tight-knit unit of kindred spirits. This is the quartet I have wanted for a long time. I'm grateful to them for their unflagging commitment to this music."

While some of the music on Subtle Disguise is personal in nature, there is a political thread that runs through much of the album. From Red Cloud, a paean to the great Oglala Sioux leader, to Blind Willie Johnson's spotlight on our youngest embattled citizens, Motherless Children, “It's obvious that on this recording I felt the need to address some wrongs, both historic and present", says Locke. Although Who Killed Davey Moore?, Bob Dylan's song about passing the buck, was written in 1963, Locke's composition Rogues of America speaks to a more current manifestation of callous indifference. Locke explains that the title song, “is about the masks we all wear, for various reasons. Many good souls feel the need to disguise their vulnerabilities, while others wear a smiling mask to hide a malevolent agenda. Whatever the reason, these disguises are hard to shed. The song is also so named because it's based on a disguised version of a Miles Davis song from the 1950s. Make Me Feel Like It's Raining is Locke's tribute to Bobby Hutcherson, who passed away in August, 2016. Locke elaborates, “Bobby was the bellwether of contemporary vibraphone. He was also my personal touchstone. Bobby was once asked in an interview what he wanted as a listener. He responded, 'Jerk me around! Jerk my soul around! Make me smile and laugh. Make me sad. Make me feel like it's raining.' His musical impact and the light of his humanity will be felt for a long time to come. Blondie Roundabout is a dedication to Locke's manager, Nadja von Massow, around whom there is a constant flow of creative traffic. Safe and Sound (At The Edge of the Milky Way) was inspired by a line spoken by Albert Finney in the film adaptation of Lyle Kessler's play, Orphans. “I like the paradox of all of us being safe and sound in such a precarious place in the universe", says Locke. A Little More Each Day, the vocal version of this song, serves as the album's closer, with Locke on piano, David Binney on alto and Alina Engibaryan interpreting the lyric beautifully.

About Joe Locke

It bears repeating—Joe Locke is a musician's musician, an artist for the ages whose immense talent and uplifting spirit enhances every musical situation he graces. Locke is a man who has gathered no moss as he has evolved into a communicator, a conceptualist, a composer, and a modern virtuoso who defies categorization. He has worked in numerous formats, from small group to symphony orchestra, and with artists as diverse as Cecil Taylor and The Beastie Boys.

Derk Richardson said of Locke in The San Francisco Bay Guardian that, “not only has he mastered an instrument that has catapulted only a handful of players to the forefront of modern jazz- but he has done so in a way that transcends mere technique and establishes him as a unique and adventurous musical voice." With more than thirty acclaimed recordings to his credit, it is no wonder The Times (London) proclaimed that, “there seems little doubt that Locke, with his ability to play cool and funky, heady and relaxed, is set to become the pre-eminent vibraphonist in jazz." In a four and a half star review in DownBeat Magazine, journalist Ken Micallef called Love Is a Pendulum, “a thematic work that embraces a cerebral vision and empowers it song after song," and elaborated that, “Love Is a Pendulum honors the listener's intelligence in artfully realized song-craft." And, Mike Hobart stated in The Financial Times that, “Joe Locke's clean lines, crystalline tone and shimmering vibrato recall the great US vibraphonists Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson, but their fellow American boosts his technically assured modernism with emotional commitment and compositional flair."

This sampling of praise is in no small part due to his recent solo projects, notably the three distinct albums he has released since 2011, which display his immense stylistic versatility and ability to create artistic depth in a variety of contexts: Signing (2012, the long awaited follow-up studio album of Live In Seattle), Wish Upon A Star (2012, Locke's first ever symphonic project, featuring Locke's Quartet with the Symphony Orchestra of Lincoln, Nebraska), and Lay Down My Heart (2013, jazz radio chart's #1 Blues & Ballads album). Locke's previous release, Love Is a Pendulum, was hailed as the most important work of his career. Other notable recordings in Locke's extensive discography (more than thirty albums as a leader) include, Four Walls of Freedom, a six movement suite featuring the late tenor saxophonist Bob Berg; Live in Seattle by The Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group, which won the 2006 Ear Shot award for Concert of the Year, and his eloquent and vibrant quartet recording, Force Of Four. Not to mention his newest crowning achievement, Subtle Disguise (out on Origin, November 16, 2018).

Locke is a five-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association's “Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year" Award, has received the 2013 Hot House NYC Jazz Awards for Best Vibes Player and keeps topping critics and readers polls. In 2016 he was honoured with the induction into the Music Hall of Fame of his hometown Rochester, NY. He is an active clinician and educator in the United States and in Europe and has been the International Vibraphone Consultant at the Royal Academy Of Music, London, on a visiting basis since 2008, holding the title of Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy Of Music (Hon ARAM) since 2013. Joe is also on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music in NYC.


Joe Locke (compositions, vibes, piano-trk 9)
Jim Ridl (piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers)
Lorin Cohen (electric & acoustic bass)
Samvel Sarkisyan (drums)
Raul Midon (voice-tks 2, 6, guitar-trk 2)
Adam Rogers (guitar-trks 1, 3, 6, 7, 8)
David Binney (alto saxophone-trks 1, 5, 8, 9)
Alina Engibaryan (voice-trk 9)

Subtle Disguise Track Listing

1. Red Cloud
2. Who Killed Davey Moore?
3. Subtle Disguise
4. Make Me Feel Like It's Raining
5. Rogues of America
6. Motherless Children
7. Safe and Sound (At the Edge of the Milky Way)
8. Blondie Roundabout
9. A Little More Each Day

All compositions by Joe Locke, except “Who Killed Davey Moore?" by Bob Dylan, and “Motherless Children" by Blind Willie Johnson

Joe Locke endorses Malletech instruments, and Love Is A Pendulum was the first recording to feature the innovative OmegaVibe (also endorsed by Stefon Harris, Tony Miceli and Warren Wolf).

This story appears courtesy of Jason Byrne, Red Cat Publicity.
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