JazzTimes - p.89
"[T]his CD becomes an affirmation that Locke's new quartet is a keeper....Locke invites Wayne Escoffery to infuse some funk into the party on two tracks."
Personnel: Joe Locke (vibraphone); Robert Xavier Rodriguez , Robert Rodriguez (piano); Ricardo Rodriguez (bass instrument); Johnathan Blake (drums).
Audio Mixers: Alessandro V. Perrota; Alessandro Protti.
Recording information: Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ (03/06/2008).
Joe Locke is one of the premier vibists on the scene in the 21st century, and this album makes a case for the reason behind it. The man can play the vibes without question, but Force of Four is a sheer tour de force. The album opens with a tribute to Joe Henderson penned by pianist Robert Rodriguez in which Locke starts out with a high-speed flight on the vibes, bouncing around in a near arpeggio that never quite settles, but doesn't stop for a full six minutes. The energy of the band serves only to support his powerful rush. In "Ruminations," the vibes and piano spend a fair amount of time in a slower format, paralleling one another for the main movements, but separating to add a bit of drama and counterpoint as well. "Ricky's Tune" returns Locke to more of a bouncing aesthetic, with a casual groove backing him up, and the Sonny Rollins selection, "No Moe," finds a fitting home in Locke's hands (the pieces was originally recorded in conjunction with Milt Jackson and the Modern Jazz Quartet). The application of the quartet (with the additional hand of trumpeter Thomas Marriott) to the classic Rollins piece is easily the highlight of the album, bringing bebop together with the more modern sound embraced through the majority of the recording effortlessly through a change in the bassline and a different approach to the vibes. As the album moves on, the sound becomes contemplative for "Available in Blue," and briefly almost menacing in "Alpha Punk," as Locke again runs parallel lines, this time with sax player "Wayne Escoffery." Midway through Johnny Mercer's "Laura," Locke lets loose with a particularly fast, but very delicate virtuosic shimmering. The album closes with a somewhat shorter groove, but a more varied one, in tribute of the multi-instrumental master Mark Ledford. Locke's been around the scene for a while, but this album is as fresh as it comes. ~ Adam Greenberg