Joe LoCascio | Book of Days Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Joe LoCascio is a jazz pianist and composer that has spent a lifetime generating and performing creative music. He is an award-winning composer who has written for ensembles of all sizes and is prolific in both traditional and jazz genres. As a performer, he has released eighteen critically acclaimed jazz recordings. LoCascio has performed and/or recorded with 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 marks pianist/composer Joe LoCascio’s eighteenth album release in a recording career spanning from 1986. It’s his first release since the 2013 release Absinthe, a critically acclaimed collaboration with saxophonist Woody Witt exploring the music of Billy Strayhorn. Book of Days was recorded in Houston’s famed Wire Road Studios and, besides his long-time collaborator, saxophonist Woody Witt, features bassist Richard Mikel, now a resident of New York, and drummer Daniel Dufour from Austin, TX.
“Fantomas” opens the set with a strong composition, and the ensemble sets the mood for the entire release. With a broad-spaning melody and interesting harmonic movement, the composition shows LoCascio’s ability to create a space of drama and intrigue within a quartet setting. Witt’s soprano saxophone playing is beautifully executed as his tone is warm, and his intonation is spot-on. Witt’s solo is thematically strong, and the rhythm section works in conjunction to build his solo. LoCascio’s accompaniment is a dazzling dialogue between Witt, Dufour, and Mikel.
“Notes in a Foreign Hand” is another developing composition, this time featuring Witt on tenor saxophone. Though almost completely retired from live performing, LoCascio still has the urge to get out and play. “It’s different now. I still love playing, but the desire to do it steadily is just not there. It has been replaced with a desire to return to the ‘woodshed’ and practice every day.” That passion is heard in his interaction with the ensemble and his melodic and arching solo. Witt’s solo is also filled with singing notes with excellent precision. In addition, Mikel takes a melodic double bass solo, exploring a wide range of the instrument before the theme is restated.
Book of Days is a project initiated by Witt, who asked LoCascio to play a few gigs with these two dynamic musicians and the resulting chemistry was beautiful, and this album is the result. The set is a consolidation of well-written compositions and effortless performances. All ten pieces in Book of Days are brimming with a high level of musicianship, wisdom, and interaction.