Jazz CD Reviews

Joe Locke – Lay Down My Heart (Blues and Ballads – Vol. 1) – Motema

Exquisite mood music…

Published on April 23, 2013

Joe Locke – Lay Down My Heart (Blues and Ballads – Vol. 1) – Motema  MTM-121, 55:41 ****:

(Joe Locke, vibes; Ryan Cohan, piano; David Finck, bass; Jaimed Brown, drums)

Joe Locke, in the liner notes to his new Motema Release, Lay Down My Heart, points out that his new CD’s ambition is to “feed the soul.” With his melodic vibes and accompanying piano trio onboard, Locke’s mission is easily met.  Joe includes two original compositions along with seven well known “feel good” tracks, such as Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Bobby Troup’s “The Meaning of the Blues,” and two chestnuts, “Makin’ Whoopee,” and “Dedicated to You.

The vibe that is readily apparent is a feeling of ease, and a calming of the daily stresses we all face (even on a good day..). The fact that this CD is titled Vol. 1 is testament to the fact that “Dr.” Locke has further calming musical medicine in mind for future relaxation.

Starting off with the Bill Withers’ tune is an astute beginning. The vibes/piano mix sets the table for what is to follow, and this is not the dreaded smooth jazz pabulum, it still swings. The steady drum beat of Jaimed Brown, gets your head nodding while Ryan Cohan’s piano is as sparkling as Joe’s vibe stylings.

Joe’s “Broken Toy” keeps the mellowness going as well, but with a bit more challenge, as it has a bit more intrigue involved as Locke’s melody requires a bit more concentration as it reaches for a higher plain. Sam Jones’ “Bittersweet” has an angular edge as Cohan and Locke play off each other and Locke’s energy spurs on the trio.

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a beautiful ballad with the deeply moving  opening chorus setting up a melancholy feeling of a relationship on its last legs and ready for the mourning period to begin. “The Meaning of the Blues” continues the period of contemplation, and it would be excellent late night listening while enjoying your favorite libation.

Frank Foster’s “Simone” is a nice feature just for the backing piano trio, and drummer Brown again shines.  Joe’s other original, “This New October” has Locke hitting ethereal high notes that hang in the air like a basketball high leaper hanging over the rim.

The quality of the recording and mix by Katherine Miller is certainly on display here.  “Makin’ Whoopee” and “Dedicated to You” close out the CD like a tasty dessert after a fine meal of comfort food. I will await Vol. 2 of Blues and Ballads with eager anticipation.

TrackList: Ain’t No Sunshine, Broken Toy, Bittersweet, I Can’t Make You Love Me, The Meaning of the Blues, Simone, This New October, Makin’ Whoopee, Dedicated to You

—Jeff Krow




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