Joe Locke became a vibraphone player through the fine art of compromise -- with is mother.
"Drums were the first instrument I fell in love with," Locke, 56, says by phone from his home in Middletown, N.J. "My mom said to me, 'Joe, I'm fine with you playing the drums, but you also have to take piano lessons so you have a complete picture of making music.' She did me that great favor, and I gravitated to the piano more and more but never thought of myself as a pianist.
"So the vibes was the perfect balance between the drums and the piano. For me, it was a no brainer. I fell in love with it as soon as I started playing it when I was 12 or 13."
Since then Locke has become one of jazz's most lauded vibraphonists, as well as a composer and educator. The three-time Jazz Journalists Award winner has worked with the likes of Grover Washington Jr., Kenny Barron, Dianne Reeves, the Mingus Big Band and many others, and he's even done sessions for Rod Stewart and the Beastie Boys. He`s toured Russia with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, and, starting with 1990's "Present Tense" has released am ambitious series of his own albums, most recently 2015's "Love is a Pendulum."
"So much of that stuff seems like a lifetime ago," Locke says. "But I can look back happily and say I've learned a lot, about music and about life and myself. I think there's a lot of growing and, you know, change is inevitable but growth is optional. There's been a lot of change and hopefully some good growth -- some probably came kicking and screaming, but I think there's been some."
Locke is currently engaged in writing his first string composition for the faculty at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin, while his "pen is active again" in writing new music for himself. And he works regularly with students from a variety of programs in order to "share myself and share my experience and my job of music-making."
"That's the most important thing, to pass on what I love about making music," Locke says. "I do it infrequently enough that it's still a novelty and a pleasure for me, and I think that makes it more of a plus for the students, too. I never forget the young musician that I once was and those doors opening for me the first time and the experiences I had when I was younger that really left a mark on me. So I'd like to return that and do the same for students now."
The Oakland University Jazz Band featuring Joe Locke and the DSO Civic Jazz Orchestra
6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10
SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $20, $10 for students.
Call (866) 782-0622 or visit soundboarddetroit.com.
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