Joe Locke is regarded by many to be the most gifted vibraphonist of his generation. In addition to his strengths as an instrumentalist, recent recordings and live performances by the Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group, the Joe Locke Quartet, Rev.elation - The Music of Milt Jackson and his group "4 Walls of Freedom", offer evidence of his ever-growing stature as a band leader, composer and conceptualist.
His most recent recording with pianist Frank Kimbrough is Verrazano Moon (OmniTone), the title track of which was written in tribute to late saxophonist Bob Berg. It follows the duo's critically acclaimed two previous recordings on OmniTone, The Willow and Saturn's Child, which helped debut the OmniTone label.
The critical community continually cites Joe Locke for his artistic work. "There seems little doubt that Locke, with his ability to play cool and funky, heady and relaxed, is set to become the pre-eminent vibraphonist in jazz." (The Times, London). He has been voted the #1 vibist in DownBeat Magazine's Critic's Poll (TDWR) and Brazil's International Jazz Poll, was honored with the "Mallet Player of the Year" Award by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) in 2006, and has received two Golden Ear "Concert of the Year" Awards — in 2005 with the Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group for their concert at the Ballard Jazz Festival, released on CD as "Live in Seattle" on the Origin Label, and 2007 for his performance at the Port Townsend Jazz Festival.
Joe Locke has released more than 25 recordings as a band leader, and appeared on almost 100 albums as a guest artist.
As a jazz musician, Locke was precocious, having played with such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Pepper Adams and Mongo Santamaria before he was even out of high school. Since moving to New York City in 1981, Joe has performed with Grover Washington Jr., Kenny Barron, Dianne Reeves, Eddie Daniels, Jerry Gonzales' Fort Apache Band, Rod Stewart, The Beastie Boys, Eddie Henderson, Hiram Bullock, Bob Berg, Ron Carter, Jimmie Scott, Geoffrey Keezer, The Mingus Big Band and Randy Brecker, among many others. Joe has toured extensively throughout the world, both as leader and guest soloist. Some highlights include a 16 city tour of Russia, which culminated in a concert with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of world-renowned violist, Yuri Bashmet; a 30 city tour of all major capitals of Europe, performing Charles Mingus' magnum opus, "Epitaph" as a featured soloist under the direction of distinguished conductor, Gunther Schuller; a series of volcanic duet concerts in Italy with pianist Cecil Taylor, where Joe went head-to-head for three nights with the undisputed high priest of the avantgarde.
The past years have been increasingly busy for Locke. Besides his work with the Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group, the Joe Locke Quartet and his duo project with fellow vibes and marimba artist Christos Rafalides, he most recently formed a brand new musical collaboration, "Joe Locke - Force of Four". The group — featuring Robert Rodriguez, Johnathan Blake and Ricardo Rodriguez — will be recording their first album in spring 2008 on the Origin label for a summer 2008 release, followed by international concert engagements.
Another one of Locke's more recent recording "Rev.elation" with Milt Jackson's last Band remained on top of the Jazz Week album charts for an unprecedented 8 week run in 2005.
While maintaining a busy touring schedule, Locke also found time to work with students. A concert in Rochester, NY with the School of the Arts jazz ensemble (through The Commission Project) proved to be a memorable and rewarding experience. "I worked with the students for several weeks leading up to the concert, and real friendships were forged in that time. The name of the event was Pass it On! - the implication of the title being that I was passing on my knowledge and experience to a new generation of musicians. But it was such a mutual exchange... I learned as much from them as they did from me. The experience put me back in touch with one of the reasons I fell in love with music in the first place, namely, the sense of community that comes from creating something with others."
Joe Locke endorses vanderPlas Vibraphones and plays the Joe Locke Autograph Mallets (PJL and PJL2) by Pro-Mark.