This concert was advertised stating that “this trio opens a powerful new Loueke chapter,” and it was truth in advertising on this crisp Advent night as guitarist Lionel Loueke performed material from his latest album Gaia with a new sound and attitude.
While the album reunited Loueke’s original trio with Massimo Biolcati/ and Ferenc Nemeth/dr, this evening had the latter being replaced by the capable relief work of Kendrick Scott, who, with only a fortnight of prep, played like he shared the dna of the original band.
As for the music itself, Loueke has advanced from taking sounds and rhythms from his native country Benin and adding them as spices to jazz material. While still bringing in mysterious and exotic sounds from the Sahel desert, and singing with a percussive click as on the open and spacious “Forgiveness,” Loueke has added textures and attitude that seem rooted in Jimi Hendrix and 70s rock. Hints of “Voodoo Child” are wah-wahed while Loueke hammered his thumb on the strings for a riveting “Procession” and “Wacko Locko,” and with Scott’s assertive yet free drum work he might as well have worn pedal pushers as he changed sounds with various knobs with his feet as on the spacey rocker “Broken”. Biolcati’s funky bass mixed with the guitarist’s dark tones on the intricate fusion fest of “Gaia” while his lilting intro to “Veuve Malinee” created the mood of rippling waters of the Niger River as the leader sang along in traditional voice to form a sonic landscape.
Loueke brought the two styles together most successfully as he used his guitar for part talking drum, part flute and part kalimba as Biolcati and Scott dug deep into Afro Funk on “Freedom Dance” before the trio closed the set with a Memphis Soul stew of “Aziza.”
Loueke demonstrated tonight that he is in the unique position to authoritatively look back to the roots of jazz from its native land and synthesize it with the modern sounds of today. The attentive crowd at the Musician’s Institute appreciated the journey.
Upcoming shows sponsored by the Jazz Bakery include Jeremy Pelt Jan 10, solo Kurt Rosenwinkel Jan 16 and FORQ Jan 25