Joe Locke

Always in tune with the times, Jazz at Lincoln Center made an alluring two-fold musical statement at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola that celebrated the upcoming Oscars with some ardently appropriate film themes and set a romantic preface for Valentine's Day.

Always in tune with the times, Jazz at Lincoln Center made an alluring two-fold musical statement at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola that celebrated the upcoming Oscars with some ardently appropriate film themes and set a romantic preface for Valentine’s Day.

Veteran vibes master Joe Locke took the lead with a ’40s-flavored tune by Burton Lane that prompted Mickey and Judy to put on a show in “Babes on Broadway.” “How About You?,” later revived for “The Fisher King,” served as a bright opening statement. The tune has an infectious melodic base, and Locke captured its playful core and rhythmic bite.

After a splashy intro that skirted the intrinsic subtlety and grace of Johnny Mandel’s Oscar-winning “The Shadow of Your Smile,” vocalist Kenny Washington comfortably expressed the fervent romanticism provided by lyricist Johnny Mercer. Another durable winner is “Moon River,” the picturesque journey by Henry Mancini and wordsmith Mercer from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Locke set a loping musical setting for Washington’s vocal that was perhaps a little too forced.

Locke can bring the kind of clean, subtle grace to the vibraphone that was the trademark of Milt Jackson. It was best expressed with “Pure Imagination,” the lovely Leslie Bricusse dreamscape from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Timekeeper Clarence Pen set a bright scurrying pace for Mancini’s theme from “The Pink Panther” that served Washington’s playful scat vocal and was stealthily stalked by Locke’s vibes.

The concert centerpiece was “Cinema Paradiso,” the ornamental signature melody by celebrated Italian composer Ennio Morricone. Locke defined the themes dancing statement with its continental allure. Throughout the hour, pianist Geoffrey provided bold structural lines, generously supported by vet bassist George Mraz, who always adds a great sense of flavor and emphasis.

The set was far from exciting, however, despite a polite sense of unity and keenly crafted musicianship.

Cinema Paradiso

Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola; 130 capacity; $30

Production

Presented inhouse. Opened, reviewed Feb. 10, 2009. Runs through Feb. 15.

Cast

Musicians: Joe Locke, Geoffrey Keezer, George Mraz, Clarence Penn.
Vocals: Kenny Washington.
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