“Mr. Loueke is a gentle virtuoso… as a singer and …a full-fledged jazz guitarist... He multiplied himself, one way or another, in nearly every song.”
Lionel Loueke’s story begins in 1973 in Benin, a small country in West Africa, where he grew up in poverty listening, fascinated, to his talented brother play the guitar. When he was 17 his brother finally let him pick up his guitar, and Loueke’s path was set for life. It took him a year to earn the $50 he needed to buy his first instrument, but he couldn’t afford the strings. Undaunted, he cleaned his old ones with vinegar, and, when they broke, replaced them with old bicycle brake cables. That kind of determination took him, poverty be damned, to the Ivory Coast to attend the National Institute of Art. There he began playing in clubs to make ends meet. Always enamored with traditional African music, an earlier encounter with the music of guitarist George Benson would determine jazz as his course of study.
In 1994, Loueke moved to Paris to enroll at the American School of Modern Music. After graduation, he studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he received a scholarship and first met Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth, the musicians who would become his core band. After graduation the trio was invited to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles. Even before graduating there, he began touring, recording and composing in Terrence Blanchard’s sextet. Since leaving Blanchard’s band he has been hired by Herbie Hancock and become a member of the pianist’s quartet, touring extensively and recording on Hancock’s Grammy-winning album, River: The Joni Letters (Verve). Loueke has also recorded two albums as a leader for independent labels, In A Trance (Space Time) and Virgin Forest (ObliqSound), as well as the collective Gilfema (ObliqSound) with Biolcati and Nemeth, with whom he now tours regularly. His latest release, Karibu, was released on BlueNote in 2008.
Lionel Loueke makes his first appearance at the Litchfield Jazz Festival with his trio, with Loueke on guitar and vocals, Massimo Biolcati on bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums.
Lionel Loueke will be giving a master class open to festival ticket holders and Litchfield Jazz Camp students free of charge. Sunday, August 2, 3:00PM – 4:00 PM, Mattison Auditorium, Kent School, Kent, CT.