Lionel Loueke

A native of the West African nation of Benin, Lionel Loueke is a virtuoso guitarist who plays a sublime and innovative blend of Afro-pop, traditional African music, and modern jazz informed by the likes of Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. Loueke also scats, producing vocal lines (ranging from a textured baritone to falsetto) that flirt with his guitar's, flowing along in synchronicity or providing counterpoint, while also complicating the rhythms with percussive clicks and hums. Loueke left Africa to study jazz in Paris, at Berklee in Boston, and at the Monk Institute in L.A., along the way picking up the now-longtime mates in his trio, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth. Loueke also landed prominent roles in the bands of Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock. In fact, Hancock and another mentor, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, have guest spots on Loueke's superb major-label debut, Karibu, released a year ago on Blue Note. Shorter's soprano dances through Loueke's spare but incisive arrangement of John Coltrane's "Naima," and joins Hancock on the Loueke original "Light Dark," a lengthy piece that evolves through a series of tonal and harmonic colors, also showing off Loueke's affection for odd, shifting meters. But Loueke's trio, which amply demonstrates the instinctive communication of longtime associates, is sufficiently enthralling on its own, as will be the case at the Dakota.
Tue., April 14, 7 p.m., 2009

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