Joe LoCascio, Book of Days Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Joe LoCascio is an award-winning composer and pianist who is prolific in both classical and jazz genres. As a performer, he has released eighteen critically acclaimed jazz recordings. In addition, He has performed and/or recorded with prominent jazz figures such as Chet Baker, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Frank Rehak, Freddie Hubbard, Mel Lewis, Bob Brookmeyer, George Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Marvin Stamm, Carl Fontana, Hank Crawford, Ernie Watts, Arnett Cobb, Conrad Herwig, and Jon Faddis, among others. Book of Days is LoCascio’s latest album, which was recorded in Houston’s famed Wire Road Studios. LoCascio wrote the eleven compositions, especially for this ensemble which is long-time collaborator, saxophonist Woody Witt, bassist Richard Mikel, and drummer Daniel Dufour.
LoCascio’s compositions are written to give the ensemble complete freedom of expression in both the written and improvised journeys. This journey begins with the extended sounds of “Fantomas.” The melody is delivered with a beautiful ostinato piano figure as support. The ensemble is in tune with each other and understands the need for space as much as activity, as they interplay to create the musical setting. This helps set an atmosphere of development, awe, and exploration at every turn. Witt’s lines are delivered with warmth and power, simmering without ever boiling over or rushing. The rhythm section’s interactions are interlaced with sweet articulations, in a constant ebb and flow, varying the intensity making Witt’s solo feel very conversational.
“Point Taken” opens with Mikel’s performance, an unaccompanied bass solo. When the ensemble enters and establishes the up-tempo feel, the motivic melody is catchy and serves as a starting point for the soloist. LoCascio’s piano solo finds inspiration in the melody’s shape as his passages constantly build to a controlled, brisk climax. Witt follows with an impressive display of multi-directional flows without damaging his melodic narrative coherence. The ensemble serves each other to paint a powerful imaginary musical statement, with the individual parts combined to form an expressive and robust musical whole.
Book of Days is a collection of beautiful compositions, specially written for the players involved; you will hear the spirit that exudes from this album. This music will withstand casual listening and detailed listening from the listener. Jazz enthusiasts will appreciate the mellow smolder of this always-burning ensemble.