Joe Locke, Kenny Barron: But Beautiful
But Beautiful (Steeplechase 31295)
Recorded: Copenhagen, Denmark, August 1991
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
One of Joe Locke's lesser-known CDs is But Beautiful, a duet outing with Kenny Barron that came early in the vibraphonist's career. Steeplechase's producer, Nils Winther, asked Locke, "Are you ready to make your 'sweet' album?," and Joe rose to the occasion. Locke had played with Barron on two Eddie Henderson-led releases, so he and the pianist were already musically acquainted. The year 1991 was a bittersweet one for Barron, since he had done his last superb recording with Stan Getz (the live People Time) in March, just three months before Getz's passing. As he did for several years with Getz, Barron seems to help bring out the best in Locke, which in turn inspires the pianist's own playing to greater heights. The feeling, therefore, is mutual.
The duo affectionately dissects the title tune for a full nine minutes. Locke intones the captivating melody with much respect and tenderness, as Barron feeds him rich, reinforcing chords. While Locke adds only the slightest of ornamentation, when Barron proceeds to take up the theme, the pianist embellishes it liberally above Locke's delicate, resonant comping. Barron's lyricism turns an already perfectly structured composition into something more personal and refreshingly reborn. Locke has to follow Barron's significant creation, and acquits himself quite well. His soulful phrasing and gradually building intensity of expression reach a stirring peak before he delivers yet another softly woven reading of the theme. Their glowing, pre-arranged dual coda brings to mind the equally rewarding and more familiar pairing of Gary Burton and Chick Corea.
Reviewer: Scott Albin