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If the third time is indeed the charm then both Locke and Motema have hit pay dirt with Blues & Ballads Vol.1
Being a good critic is more then just being critical. In a conversation with John Abercrombie, I was reminded a good critic has strong opinions and will stick to them. Rondi Charleston also reminded me a good critic always answers the why question be it why something did or did not work. Blues & Ballads Vol.1 is a fresh approach and right off the heels of an album of the year for many in Signings. I bring this up to reinforce a point because Locke and I had a slight "dust-up" shortly before I became seriously ill. To keep it simple, there are those that think a good critic has been on a stage for 25 years which is as ill conceived and illogical as stating only those making movies for a quarter of a century can win an Oscar. Long story short, their were hurt feelings on both sides of the fence but I don't see either of us recanting our statements. Sometimes the very thing that brings you together (Joe wanted to be a sax player, I wanted to be a drummer) can tear you apart.
Back to recording...Locke's third effort with Motema is a 4tet that is tighter than tight. Ryan Cohan on piano combines with up and coming drummer/percussionist Jaimeo Brown and David Finck to let loose yet another record that should be lingering at the top of the charts soon. Some pop tunes and some ancient yet iconic tunes often die a slow subtle death during their jazz transition. Ballads and Blues Vol.1 gives us two gems in "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Makin' Whoopee" which are crammed full of soul without ever losing the more straight ahead jazz transition these arrangements were banged out for. "Lay Down Your Heart" is a somewhat autobiographical piece for and by Locke that takes him back to the club days where interaction with an audience extended beyond live podcast or the odd tweet. Ballads and Blues Vol. 1 is back to basics, a blues oriented jazz gem that comes straight from the heart and will hit you right between the eyes. Another new composition is "This New October" which like any good tune has a cool back story. Waking up in an extremely good mood and optimistic about the future, Locke was determined to make this feeling last so he did what any top flight musician would do, he set the feeling to music. Album of the year? Top Five at least and with the proverbial bullet.
3 Motema releases over 13 months and all with different lineups, arrangements and direction. Ballads and Blues Vol. 1 may be the very best so far. After becoming seriously ill Joe was kind enough to check on my status. Strong opinions and good questions make for a good critic but being a good critic is not about making new friends by playing slow pitch softball with a line of questioning, it is about not being afraid to lose a few friends along the way. I wish Joe tremendous luck and much success with this recording and hopefully our fences are one day mended but till then:
Tracks: 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.