Lionel Loueke

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LIONEL LOUEKE picked up the guitar late at age 17. After his initial to exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the National Institute of Art in Ivory Coast. In 1994 he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris then came to the U.S. on a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music where he first encountered his future trio mates Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth. After graduating Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute where he was able to study with his most significant mentors: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.

Praised by Hancock as “a musical painter,” Loueke combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. His Blue Note debut Karibu (2008) featured guest appearances from Hancock and Shorter with his trio and was met with wide acclaim. Mwaliko (2010) offered a series of intimate duets with Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Esperanza Spalding and Marcus Gilmore. Heritage (2012) was co-produced by label mate Robert Glasper and found Loueke exploring a more electric sound with a new trio featuring Derrick Hodge on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. His latest CD GAIA was recorded live in the studio with Bassist Massimo Biolcati & Drummer Ferenc Nemeth and produced by Blue Note President & Grammy winning producer Don Was.
In addition to albums with his collective trio Gilfema with Biolcati and Nemeth, Loueke has appeared on recordings by Hancock, Blanchard, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Joe Lovano, as well as contemporaries including Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick Scott and others. He continues to tour the world with his own trio as well as with Hancock and most recently with Chick Corea and is a member of Blue Note’s 75th anniversary Blue Note All Star  group with Glasper, Hodge, Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire and Marcus Strickland.
Lionel’s upcoming recording will be released on Aparté Records. Instead of creating an ensemble, it started with Lionel alone, playing and singing. His songs combine classic African elements, the flavors of jazz harmony, and the originality of Lionel which goes beyond any of these labels.
In the recording sessions, Lionel began every day with improvisation. There are great collaborators on this album. The magnificent Cyro Baptista added his personal unique voice on percussion. Violinist Mark Feldman played duets with Lionel and added his sound to the recorded tracks. Lionel’s touring band, Ferenc Nemeth on drums/percussion and Massimo Biolcati  on Bass join Lionel. The wonderful John Ellis , who will tour with Lionel on this project, plays soprano sax, bass clarinet and ocarina. Cellist Vincent Ségal, who has an insanely intimate knowledge of West African music is an important voice. And bassist Lanar Brantley, whose credits include Beyoncé, Mary J Blige and the Winans adds a flavor of hip hop to the music fabric. Lionel’s guitar virtuosity, his imagination, and his extraordinary voice create a world entirely his own. Familiar and yet brand new.

Official website |
Management | Jack Leitnberg
Press | Cem Kurosman, cem.kurosman[a]

Discography | Lionel Loueke on AllMusic,com
"The Benin-born musician is noted for his complexity but he started by ‘slowing down cassettes with weak batteries’
Review: Lionel Loueke’s Sinuous Serenity — November 5, 2015, New York Times
Lionel Loueke Trio On JazzSet — March 13, 2014, NPR Music
"I have two heritages: One is from my ancestors in Africa, and that goes through my music, my body, my soul," Loueke says. "But I also have a heritage from the West, from Europe and the U.S. I've been blessed by all different parts of the world, and my songs reflect that."

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