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Joe Locke Biography

"Joe Locke's playing and writing have been an absolute joy to this vibist's ears that have been starving to hear a player who challenges himself on every tune. Joe is constantly pushing the envelope musically. The cat is going into orbit soon .... I love it!" — Mike Mainieri

Joe Locke is widely considered to be one of the major voices of his instrument. He has performed and recorded with a diverse range of notable musicians, including Grover Washington Jr, Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson, Cecil Taylor, Dianne Reeves, Ron Carter, The Beastie Boys, the Münster Symphony Orchestra and the Lincoln, Nebraska Symphony.

"Not only has he mastered an instrument that has catapulted only a handful of players to the forefront of modern jazz - but he has done so in a way that transcends mere technique and establishes him as a unique and adventurous musical voice." — Derk Richardson, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Long known to be a soloist capable of stunning physical power and broad emotional range, it was not until the last decade that he emerged as the composer, band leader and conceptualist that he is considered today. This is in no small part due to his solo projects of the last decade. "Four Walls of Freedom" (Sirocco), a 6 movement suite based on the writing of the monk Thomas Merton, which he composed as a vehicle for tenor saxophonist Bob Berg, garnered high praise from the critical community as a major work and won several international polls. "Live in Seattle" (Origin), by The Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, won the 2006 Ear Shot award for "Concert of the Year". This group is well loved and emulated by younger musicians looking for direction and inspiration. The overwhelming success of his recent quartet, "Force of Four" (Origin), can be attributed to the talents of his young cohorts and to the leader's musical philosophy, which is to honor tradition while keeping both feet planted in the present and future. His 2011 album, the captivating, immersive album "VIA", is the result of a reunion of Storms/Nocturnes, the transatlantic trio with Geoffrey Keezer and Tim Garland.

"In the select group of contemporary vibes players, Locke has claims to head the list." — Penguin Encyclopedia of Jazz

Since joining Motéma Music in 2011 Joe has released "Signing", the long awaited follow-up and critically acclaimed studio album of "Live In Seattle" by The Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group, again featuring Terreon Gully and Mike Pope. "The special hook-up between vibraphonist Joe Locke and pianist Geoffrey Keezer is based on shared assets like chops, listening skills and a gift for communicating the joy of making music. Locke/Keezer can make complex material sound suave and tricky time signatures flow." (Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes).

"Locke has secured a spot among the world’s top jazz vibists – and one of the most popular. Without sacrificing his jazz integrity or intent, Locke still manages to engage even casual listeners with a mixture of edgy attitude and artistic purity." — Neil Tesser, Chicago Examiner

2012 also saw the release of Joe Locke's first ever symphonic project. "Wish Upon A Star" (Motéma) features the Joe Locke Quartet and Lincoln Nebraska's Symphony Orchestra with arrangements by Ryan Cohan and Tim Garland.

His most recent release on the Motéma label, "Lay Down My Heart - Blues & Ballads Vol 1", reached the No. 1 position of the Jazz Week album charts in July 2013.

“No vibraphonist working today swings more soulfully than Joe Locke.” — Paul Debarros, Seattle Times

Locke has won numerous awards and polls, including the 2006, 2008 and 2009 "Mallet Player of the Year" award from the Jazz Journalists Association. He is active as a clinician / educator. In 2008 and was appointed International Vibraphone Consultant by the Royal Academy of Music, London - a position which he holds on a visiting basis - and received the title of Honorary Associate of the Academy (Hon ARAM) in 2014.


Comprehensive Joe Locke discography incl. music samples.

  • For The Love Of You
  • Force of Four
  • Van Gogh By Numbers
  • Live in Seattle
  • Mutual Admiration Society 2
  • Sticks and Strings

Find a list of albums with Joe as a...

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2006 - Golden Ear Award
"Concert of the Year" (Joe Locke / Geoffrey Keezer Group at Ballard Jazz Festival)

2006 - JJA Award
"Mallet Player of the Year"

2008 - Golden Ear Award
"Concert of the Year" (Joe Locke at Port Townsend Jazz Festival)

2008 - JJA Award
"Mallet Player of the Year"

2009 - JJA Award
"Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year"

2013 - Hot House NYC Jazz Awards
"Vibes Player of the Year"