As a follow-up to his 2010 album, Mwaliko, on which he married his art with the likes of Richard Bona, Angélique Kidjo and Esperanza Spalding, Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke brings us Heritage, a more electric sound that builds delicate bridges between his African homeland and the West. The result is a rich, sensitive and highly skilled collection.
Herbie Hancock has dubbed him a “musical painter”. Lionel Loueke uses his guitar to evoke luxurious landscapes, vibrant hues and watercolours. The Beninese prodigy, who discovered the limelight thanks to Wayne Shorter and has played with the cream of jazzmen (Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Barron, etc.), also climbs up craggy mountains and saunters down shady footpaths.
In Heritage, though, Lionel Loueke adventures into undiscovered territory. Leaving behind the acoustics and nylon strings he made his name with, and accompanied by a new line-up (Derrick Hodge on bass, Mark Giuliana on drums), the guitarist rides high on an electric wave. With deep, rounded bass, technical effects, and a catchy groove that sits on the edge of funk and hip hop, he gives shape to a sound jungle that fills the sky with fireworks, admirably led by his musical mastermind and accomplice, the pianist Robert Glasper (on piano and Rhodes piano), who also coproduced the album.
Above all, with Heritage, Lionel Loueke weaves a thread between the Africa of his ancestors and childhood, and his adopted lands (the United States and France). The result is a highly personal and appropriate rendering of the musical stuff that links the four corners of the world: an intelligent, mystical quest, a polyphonic, polyrhythmic alchemy, with peaks of urgency and depths of calm. The exuberant Heritage is one of those records you never get tired of. Each time you listen, the mist clears to reveal more of its back roads and mysteries.
Lionel Loueke Heritage (Blue Note) 2012
In concert in Paris on september 9th (Jazz à la Villette), november 23rd and 24th at Duc des Lombards and on november 26th in Rouen, at 106
Translation: Anne-Marie Harper