"Song For Cables" opens this album with a hard-driving complexity that instantly grabs the listener, with Billy Childs punching out a powerful McCoy Tyner chordal bed over which vibist Locke struts his stuff. From this auspicious beginning, Slander moves through a wide range of moods and tempos. "Saturn's Child" is a beautiful ballad, while Stevie Wonder's "Tuesday Heartbreak" is performed in an arrangement reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's treatment of contemporary material on The New Standard. In the hands of Locke and Childs, Joni Mitchell's "Blue" is surprisingly effective as a jazz ballad. The set-closing "Second Story Man" takes a straight-ahead ride on electric piano and vibes. Electric guitarist Vic Juris is featured on several cuts, establishing himself as an impressive presence. Locke's originals offer attractive melodies and interesting rhythmic shifts, and the group works well together throughout this highly recommended recording.
- Jim Newsom (All Music Guide)
This superb quintet session is the third, and undoubtedly best Milestone disc 39-year-old vibraphonist Joe Locke has released to date. Locke, a veteran of the Mingus Big Band and former Pepper Adams, Eddie Henderson, Dianne Reeve and Hiram Bullock sideman, has made his strongest personal statement withSlander (And Other Love Songs).
The influence of Bobby Hutcherson is overwhelming here - especially as evidenced by the strong boppish originals Locke has crafted (the exceptional "Song for Cables," "Saturn's Child," "Cecil B. DeBop," "Second Story Man" and "Slander"). But Locke is a more aggressive, and at times, more interesting "inside" player.
The vibist, whose inspiration comes from such horn players as Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane and Steve Grossman, is aided by some exceptional folks here too. Pianist Billy Childs, who has walked this ground before with Freddie Hubbard and Bobby Hutcherson, is muscular and consistently interesting as he alternates between acoustic and electric pianos. Bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Jackson round out the rhythm section. But it is undersung guitarist Vic Juris - appearing on five of the nine tracks here, a sort of cross between early Pat Metheny and jazzier John Scofield - who is the second star here. His commentary is really something special, providing an edgy counterpoint to the mellifluous strength of Locke's melodic vibe work.
A nice surprise is Locke's improving take on strong source material. In the past he's taken well-known works - like film themes or Henry Mancini's music - and found more than his share of sap to squeeze. But onSlander, he reworks, rethinks and reinvents Lalo Schifrin's "Mission: Impossible," refashions Joni Mitchell's "Blue" into a lovely piano/vibe duet and manages to restructure the pop hit, "Can't Help Falling In Love," transcending each into something truly personal. Nice touch.
Slander (And Other Love Songs), the tenth of Joe Locke's solo discs since his 1983 debut, is a memorable representation of what good contemporary mainstream jazz can accomplish. And, if things are right in the world, it should help Joe Locke ascend to become one of the more important figures in contemporary jazz.