If variety is the spice of life, Joe Locke's latest album seems to have found the right recipe. Seven originals, covers of Bob Dylan and Blind Willie Johnson tunes, a core quartet of Jim Ridl's imaginative keyboards, Lorin
Cohen's colorful bass and Samvel Sarkisyan's nimble drumming, plus a diverse group of guests comprising Adam Rogers (guitar), David Binney (alto saxophone) and vocalists Raul Midón and Alina Engibaryan make
for quite an eclectic CD. Locke himself confesses that this recording represents "the total expression of who I am as a musician and human being."
In this sense, Locke speaks of having found his lingua franca, connecting all the styles he has been playing. But eclecticism per se may not necessarily be a value and lead instead to a certain loss of cohesiveness. Such is the case with this otherwise spectacular music: each piece is brilliant in and of itself, but the overall result lacks directions compared to Locke's earlier efforts such as Love is a Pendulum and Signing. Each tune reflects a programmatic approach, starting from their self-defining titles: the dramatic rhythmic pattern of "Red Cloud" is a tribute to the Oglala Lakota chief; Dylan's "Who Killed Davey Moore?" verges on funky by showcasing Midón's
vocals and guitar disserting on morality; the title track's suspenseful atmosphere ponders on the many masks we all wear, keyboards weaving among vibraphone and guitar.
The CD then proceeds by alternating mood, pace, instrumentation and dedications. Many are the moments of sheer brilliance, including Locke's heartfelt tribute to Bobby Hutcherson "Make Me Feel Like It's Raining"; vocals in "A Little More Each Day" in which Engibaryan and Binney capture the very essence of the tune, beautifully supported by piano; and Rogers' solo on "Motherless Children". This is an extremely rich and varied menu yet one whose diversity may overwhelm some listeners' tastes.