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Born in northern California but raised in the northeastern U.S., Joe Locke is a hard bop/post-bop vibist whose main influences include Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson. Locke was a child when he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Rochester, NY, where he started playing piano and drums at age eight before taking up the vibraphone at 13. Locke, whose father taught classical music, started out playing rock but got heavily into straight-ahead jazz in his early teens. As a teenager, he studied privately with pianist Phil Markowitz and bassist Steve Davis.
Locke was in his early 20s when he moved to New York in 1981, and two years later, he wrote the score for the independent film/documentary El Salvador: Another Vietnam. The vibist's first several years in New York were a struggle, but as the '80s progressed, he found himself playing or recording as a sideman for Kenny Barron, Freddy Cole, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Jerry Gonzalez, and others. In the '90s, he toured Japan with Eddie Henderson and was employed on albums by Henderson, Cole, Eddie, Grover Washington, Jr., Dianne Reeves, George Cables, Barbara Dennerlein, Hiram Bullock, and the Charles Mingus Ghost Band. Locke toured Russia four times with tenor saxophonist Igor Butman, one of the country's top jazzmen.
As a leader, Locke recorded several albums for the Danish SteepleChase label before joining Milestone/Fantasy's roster with 1995's Moment to Moment: The Music of Henry Mancini. His subsequent Milestone dates included 1997's Sound Tracks (which concentrated on songs from famous films) and 1998's Slander (And Other Love Songs). Beauty Burning followed in mid-2000; Storytelling appeared the following year. In 2002 Locke returned with his Storytelling band for State of Soul. For the Love of You arrived in 2010.