Joe Locke Trio | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Joe Locke Trio

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Vibraphonist Joe Locke likes to say that he graduated from the "university of the streets," and he did play for tips with legendary New York sidewalk saxist George Braith in the early 80s; in any case, he skipped the famous music schools (and college entirely, for that matter). That background helps explain his mix of edgy attitude and artistic innocence, and perhaps also his onstage flamboyance, both sartorial and physical. With a barely reined-in energy and some strong ideas, Locke has found his own voice--though maybe "voices" is the better word, since he's gone in many different directions, with varying levels of success. He heads up multiple bands with widely divergent repertoires and approaches; his last seven albums encompass six different lineups, from duo to septet, and the trio he's presenting here isn't even among them. (The best record of the bunch is the quartet disc 4 Walls of Freedom, released in 2003 on Sirocco Jazz Limited.) Locke's played sideman to some fairly demanding leaders, including conductor Gunther Schuller and local composer Patricia Barber, and in 2000 he played a series of duo sets with free-jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor that drew flak from purists who believed he didn't belong in such exalted company. (The pairing was actually Taylor's idea, but some fans reacted as if Locke had held a gun to the pianist's head.) I take issue with some of Locke's choices--his solo lines can get a bit flabby and lose direction, and I want more depth on his ballads. But anybody who can catch Cecil Taylor's ear and piss off the intelligentsia gets a vote of confidence from me. Locke's joined by bassist Mark Urness and percussionist Dane Richeson. See also Saturday. Fri 4/7, 9 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10.

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