If Joe Locke had already dealt with different combos - the very celebrated duo with pianist Geoffrey Keezer, the quartet without rhythm instrument, like piano or guitar, on his acclaimed "4 Walls of Freedom", and the New York combination with pianist Billy Childs, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Idriss Muhammad - this time his sticks are weaved with the strings of Kreisberg’s guitar: this is one of the readings that can be surely given of his latest recording, just named after Stick and Strings.
This Cd, released under the Italian label JazzEyes, features Locke leading what may be considered his very quartet, as for performance, interpretation, interplay and, not least, his own writing as well the tunes purposely composed by his mates. Joe Locke’s vibe makes a circular atmosphere with his vibrations, and the group plays its own role to give unity to the upshot: this goes "Time like the Present", by his bassist Jay Anderson, with weaving of the instruments, but the interplay really links each one of the whole ensemble on "Rosario Material".
The perfect and mutual understanding between the vibist and the young New York guitar player is bright - in any sense - in the "obbligato" of "Sword of Whispers", where the two musicians walk together with enthralling unison at first, and then each one takes his own solo, Locke with his lyrical mallets and Kreisberg on his acoustic guitar, more than Di Meola's style. Even if the record gives no so much space to virtuoso performance, "Terzani" seems the tune where either Locke and Kreisberg take their own chances. Two beautiful standards make richer the vinyl-cd - which looks like a mini old long playing - magnificently performed by Locke's fluidly running and intense touch: "All of You", where the guitar finds its place too, upon the paced walking of Anderson’s bass and La Barbera’s light drumming (and here Anderson solos on the melodic lines, while Locke thrills the coda) and Styne’s "I Fall in Love Too Easily", a ballad where, again, bass and drums create the structure and the leader develops some of his imaginative ideas.
A drop of romance in "A Word Before You Go", with a mild East-coast taste, while the choral performing and interplay leave their marks in the elegant "Appointment in Orvieto". The last number, "Sixth Sense", is a sort of intriguing dissonant blues contributed by La Barbera, who starts the bass line upon which the others enjoy their voices. For Joe Locke this is a very test as a leader, where he is not afraid at all to leave each one of his musicians, mainly the promising Kreisberg, their own soloing initiative, and, even better, where he really knows how to take advantage from them and make the music benefit.