Berklee Today: Lionel Loueke

By 
Mark Small
March 3, 2009
Photo by Jimmy Katz

The musical path of guitarist Lionel Loueke has been quite different from that of most jazz musicians. Loueke's journey began in the tiny country of Benin in West Africa and, after many unforeseen twists and turns, has taken him to some of the world's most prestigious concert venues. As a member of the sextet led by renowned pianist Herbie Hancock, he recently completed a European tour and touched down in Berlin, London, Warsaw, Milan, Stockholm, Athens, and elsewhere.

I caught their show at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, England. Hancock's introduction of Loueke to the audience made it clear that Hancock is excited about what Loueke brings to his music. During the set, Loueke swayed as he played unison lines with Hancock and trumpeter Terence Blanchard, produced ambient chordal swells, a range of electronic and naturally produced effects, funky chord jabs, and wordless vocals behind his guitar solos on such Hancock chestnuts as "Speak Like a Child," "Chameleon," and "Actual Proof," as well as Loueke's "Seven Teens," and Wayne Shorter's "V."

As an amalgam of African, European, and American influences, Loueke's style has prompted critics to proclaim him one of the most original jazz guitarists to emerge in years. . . .

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