|Born||April 27, 1973|
|Labels||ObliqSound, Blue Note|
Loueke grew up in what he has described as a family of poor intellectuals in the West African country of Benin. He began playing percussion instruments around the age of 9 but was influenced by an older brother who played guitar, which he began playing himself when he was seventeen. He listened to guitarists George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, and Wes Montgomery. It took Loueke a year to earn the $50 he needed to buy his first guitar. When he lacked money to buy new strings, which had to be bought across the border in Nigeria, he soaked the strings in vinegar to keep them clean. When the strings broke, he replaced them with bicycle brake cables, which damaged the neck of the guitar and compelled him to find a carpenter to fix it.
He studied at the National Institute of Art in Ivory Coast, the American School of Music in Paris from 1994 to 1998, Berklee College of Music from 1999 to 2001, and the Thelonious Monk Institute from 2001 to 2003.
He got his first professional job by accident. At a club during a break, he took a guitar from the bandstand and started playing it. The club's manager heard him and offered him a job. He played African pop music, but he discovered jazz when a friend returned from Paris with a copy of an album by George Benson. This inspired Loueke to study jazz in Paris. He auditioned for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of California Los Angeles. He was selected in a worldwide search by a panel of judges, including jazz musicians Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, and Wayne Shorter.
After UCLA, he appeared on Blanchard's albums Bounce (2003) and Flow (2005) and on Hancock's Possibilities (2006) and River: The Joni Letters (2007). He has also worked with Avishai Cohen, Charlie Haden, Angelique Kidjo, Francisco Mela, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick Scott, Alison Wedding, Brian Blade, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dennis Chambers, Vinnie Colaiuta, Kenwood Dennard, Nathan East, Kenny Garrett, Michael Eckroth, George Garzone, Roy Hargrove, Magos Herrera, Bob Hurst, Alphonso Johnson, Marcus Miller, John Patitucci, Dianne Reeves, Santana, Sting, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Cassandra Wilson.
He belongs to the trio Gilfema with Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth. Both were his classmates at Berklee in Boston. Gilfema recorded the albums Gilfema (2005), and Gilfema + 2 (2008) for ObliqSound. As a solo act, Loueke recorded the live album In a Trance (2005) for Space Time Records and Virgin Forest (2006) for ObliqSound.
He made his major-label debut in 2008 when Blue Note released his album Karibu. NPR praised his fusion of African music with jazz harmonies, vocal inflections, and complex time signatures. The album includes Biolcati and Nemeth and guest appearances by Hancock and Shorter. His album Mwaliko (2010) is a collection of duo and trio performances that combines traditional West African music with jazz. Guests include Angélique Kidjo (a native of Benin), Richard Bona from Cameroon, and American musicians Marcus Gilmore and Esperanza Spalding.
Awards and honors
In early 2008, Loueke's "Kponnon Kpété" won Best Traditional World Song in the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards. Virgin Forest was nominated World Fusion Album of the year.
- Incantation (self-released, 2004)
- In a Trance (Space Time, 2005)
- Virgin Forest (Obliqsound, 2006)
- Karibu (Blue Note, 2008)
- Mwaliko (Blue Note, 2010)
- Heritage (Blue Note, 2012)
- Gaia (Blue Note, 2015)
- The Journey (Aparte, 2018)
- Close Your Eyes (Newvelle, 2018)
- Obsession (Obsessions, 2018) - with Céline Rudolph
- HH (Edition, 2020)
- Gilfema (Obliqsound, 2005)
- Gilfema + 2 (Obliqsound, 2008)
- Three (Sounderscore, 2020)
With Terence Blanchard
- Bounce (Blue Note, 2003)
- Flow (Blue Note, 2005)
- Choices Concord Jazz, 2009)
- Magnetic (Blue Note, 2013)
With Herbie Hancock
- Possibilities (Hear Music, 2005)
- River: The Joni Letters (Verve, 2007)
- The Imagine Project (Sony, 2010)
With Angelique Kidjo
- Djin Djin (EMI/Razor & Tie/Odeon 2007)
- Yo (Razor & Tie 2010)
- Sings (429 Records, 2015)
- Remain in Light (Kravenworks 2018)
- Philip Bailey, Love Will Find a Way (Verve, 2019)
- Jeff Ballard, Time's Tales (Okeh, 2013)
- Jeff Ballard, Fairgrounds (Edition, 2019)
- Kenny Barron, The Traveler (Universal, 2008)
- Rhian Benson, Gold Coast (DKG, 2003)
- Massimo Biolcati, Persona (Obliqsound, 2008)
- Donald Brown, Fast Forward to the Past (Space Time, 2008)
- Jeff Coffin, Into the Air (Ear Up, 2012)
- Avishai Cohen, After the Big Rain (Anzic, 2007)
- Chick Corea & Steve Gadd, Chinese Butterfly (Stretch, 2017)
- Jack DeJohnette, Sound Travels (eOne, 2012)
- Oran Etkin, Kelenia (Motema, 2009)
- Oran Etkin, Gathering Light (Motema, 2014)
- Tony Grey, Chasing Shadows (Abstract Logix 2008)
- Charlie Haden, Land of the Sun (Verve, 2004)
- Kevin Hays, Hope (Newvelle, 2017)
- Miho Hazama, Dancer in Nowhere (Verve, 2018)
- Dave Holland, Aziza (Dare2, 2016)
- Norah Jones, Featuring (Blue Note, 2010)
- Nicolas Kummert, La Diversite (Edition, 2017)
- Takuya Kuroda, Rising Son (Blue Note, 2014)
- Eric Le Lann & Jannick Top, Le Lann Top (Nocturne, 2007)
- Joe Lovano, Cross Culture (Blue Note, 2013)
- Meeco, Souvenirs of Love (Double Moon, 2014)
- Francisco Mela, Cirio (Half Note, 2008)
- Laura Mvula, The Dreaming Room (Sony, 2016)
- Ferenc Nemeth, Night Songs (Dreamers Collective, 2007)
- Ferenc Nemeth, Triumph (Dreamers Collective, 2012)
- Marius Neset, Circle of Chimes (ACT, 2017)
- Gretchen Parlato, In a Dream (Obliqsound, 2009)
- Michel Portal, Bailador (Classics & Jazz, 2010)
- Gonzalo Rubalcaba, XXI Century 5 (Passion, 2011)
- Robert Sadin, Art of Love (Deutsche Grammophon 2009)
- Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Sone Ka-La (EmArcy, 2006)
- Kendrick Scott, The Source (2006)
- Kavita Shah, Visions (Naive, 2014)
- Elizabeth Shepherd, The Signal (Linus, 2014)
- Nate Smith, Kinfolk (Ropeadope, 2017)
- Walter Smith III, Casually Introducing (Fresh Sound, 2006)
- Somi, Red Soil in My Eyes (World Village, 2007)
- Omar Sosa, Eggun (Ota, 2013)
- Luciana Souza, Speaking in Tongues (Sunnyside, 2015)
- Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society (Heads Up, 2012)
- The Vampires, The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke (Earshift 2017)
- Florian Weber, Biosphere (Enja, 2012)
- Kenny Werner, Coalition (Half Note, 2014)
- Collar, Matt. "Lionel Loueke". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 123. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
- Prasad, Anil (2008). "Linking Worlds". innerviews.org. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
- Scott, Simon (28 March 2018). "Q&A with Guitarist Lionel Loueke: Signature Sound". DownBeat Magazine. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
- Bordal, Christian. "In Lionel Loueke, African Pop Meets Jazz". Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- Long, Kyle. "Lionel Loueke's World of Influence". NUVO.
- Independent Music Awards – 7th Annual Winners Archived 2009-03-06 at the Wayback Machine
- United States Artists Official Website Archived 2010-11-10 at the Wayback Machine
- "Jazz Maestros The Vampires Kick Off Australian Album Tour". themusic.com.au. 12 March 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
- Official site
- Lionel Loueke: Jazz Meets African Rhythms On 'Mwaliko' audio report by NPR