Loueke playing a skeleton guitar
|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 (2004)
- Afrizona with Dom Moio, Rob Gourlay, Jim Stinnett (2005)
- In a Trance (Space Time, 2005)
- Virgin Forest (ObliqSound, 2006)
- Karibu (Blue Note, 2008)
- Mwaliko (Blue Note, 2010)
- Heritage (Blue Note, 2012)
- Gaïa (Blue Note, 2015)
- Pannon Blue with Kristof Bacso (Budapest Music Center, 2016)
- Obsession with Celine Rudolph (2017)
- The Journey (Aparté, 2018)
- Gilfema (ObliqSound, 2005)
- Gilfema + 2 (ObliqSound, 2008) with Anat Cohen and John Ellis
With Terence Blanchard
With Herbie Hancock
With Angelique Kidjo
- 2007 Djin Djin
- 2010 Oyeoe
- 2014 Eve
- 2015 Sings
With Francisco Mela
- 2006 Melao
- 2008 Cirio: Live at the Blue Note
With Ferenc Nemeth
- 2007 Night Songs
- 2012 Triumph
With Gretchen Parlato
- 2005 Gretchen Parlato
- 2009 In a Dream
- 2003 Gold Coast, Rhian Benson
- 2004 Land of the Sun, Charlie Haden
- 2006 The Source, Kendrick Scott
- 2007 After the Big Rain, Avishai Cohen
- 2007 Going Home, Morris Robinson
- 2007 Le Lann Top, Eric Le Lann/Jannick Top
- 2007 Red Soil in My Eyes, Somi
- 2008 The Traveler, Kenny Barron
- 2008 Chasing Shadows, Tony Grey
- 2008 Persona, Massimo Biolcati
- 2008 Tell Me a Bed Time Story, Mark Egan
- 2009 Art of Love: Music of Machaut, Robert Sadin
- 2009 Distancia, Magos Herrera
- 2009 Kelenia, Oran Etkin
- 2010 ...Featuring Norah Jones, Norah Jones
- 2012 Sound Travels, Jack DeJohnette
- 2012 This Dance, Alison Wedding
- 2012 Biosphere, Florian Weber
- 2012 Eggun: The Afri-Lectric Experience, Omar Sosa
- 2012 Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding
- 2013 Cross Culture, Joe Lovano
- 2014 Time's Tales, Jeff Ballard
- 2014 Coalition, Kenny Werner
- 2014 Rising Son, Takuya Kuroda
- 2014 The Signal, Elizabeth Shepherd
- 2015 Speaking in Tongues, Luciana Souza
- 2016 Aziza, Dave Holland
- 2017 The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke, The Vampires
- 2017 Chasing the Unicorn, Roxy Coss
- 2017 Chinese Butterfly, Chick Corea/Steve Gadd
- 2018 Dancer in Nowhere, Miho Hazama m_unit
- 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.
- "Lionel Loueke | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- "Lionel Loueke | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
- Official site
- Lionel Loueke: Jazz Meets African Rhythms On 'Mwaliko' audio report by NPR