Commissioned by the Escape X Percussion Duo, jazz vibraphonist/composer Joe Locke crafted a programmatic tribute to his new home of New Jersey, and, more specifically, the Garden State Parkway. Driving along the tree-lined roads of the Parkway with a cloudless, blue sky on the horizon can be blissful, but New Jersey’s fast drivers can often make the drive somewhat less than calm. Locke perfectly captured this juxtaposition by writing for marimba and vibraphone. He also incorporated Escape X’s iconic style of adding extra sounds to the keyboards by writing for tuned gongs and crotales.
After living in New York City for more than 30 years (tempus fugit!), I finally had enough of the concrete jungle, moved to a lovely historic enclave in New Jersey and ensconced myself in a beautiful 19th century former schoolhouse brimming with character, charm, and some friendly spirits which I knew would stoke my own creative fires, even as the bucolic views out my windows would, just like beautiful music, soothe my savage beast. At last, I was done with the fast pace of urban life and ready to settle into this new pastoral existence.
Not so fast!
It wasn’t long before I was i introduced to driving in New Jersey, and more specifically, the Garden State Parkway. So much for my pastoral existence! Why were these people driving so fast, and where were they all going in such a hurry? It’s been three years and I still haven’t been able to answer these questions, but I’ve managed to learn not to fight the flow and, more importantly, how to get out of the way when I need to!
The piece begins with crotales and tuned gongs (pulling out of the driveway at my home). By the time the 16th note arpeggios begin, we are on the GSP. And the abrupt accents, contrary motion and out-of-sync rhythmic patterns? Well, those are the drivers I was telling you about. In the middle of the composition, there is a decidedly peaceful and melodic section, which represents a brief stroll on the boardwalk in Spring Lake before getting in the car and heading back home. You’ll know I’m there when you hear the crotales and dream gongs at the end!
Parkway, then, is my programmatic tribute to my new found home, to the Garden State Parkway, and to the destinations that make its madness worth enduring.