Joe Locke

But Beautiful

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Vibraphonist Joe Locke's intention was to make an instrumental CD of ballads while maintaining "a vocal quality in the music," as he explains in his liner notes, whether or not the songs played actually have lyrics. It doesn't take long for the listener to affirm the results of his duo date with the consummate pianist Kenny Barron; this is a lively release where both musicians "sing" on their respective instruments. Their interpretations of classic jazz compositions begin with the opener, a jaunty, strutting take of Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night." The sensuous arrangement of Duke Ellington's "A Single Petal of a Rose" finds Barron holding the pedal a tad longer than usual to slow the decay of his chords as Locke slowly and softly interweaves his voicings into this magical piece. Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" is not the type of work that one envisions hearing in a duo setting, but Locke and Barron fill the studio with a foot-tapping, blues-infected performance. Other tracks stick pretty much to ballads, including a slowly savored arrangement of the bittersweet "You Don't Know What Love Is," a majestic "Spring Is Here" that has a slightly Latin-tinged rhythm, and a breathtaking "But Beautiful." This strongly recommended CD should be considered a high-priority acquisition for fans of Joe Locke and/or Kenny Barron.

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