BRATTLEBORO -- Herbie Hancock calls him "fearless!" Reviewer Larry Blumenfeld calls his story "one of jazz’s most fascinating" in ArtInfo. And The Revivalist calls him "a different type of musician, not bound by the conventional techniques and thought processes."
Most people who hear jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke come up with similar exclamations in response to his playing. Loueke’s sound is like no other -- adventurous and daring, eclectic and far-reaching, unbridled by convention.
On Saturday, Loueke performs at the Vermont Jazz Center in the Cotton Mill at 8 p.m.
Since embarking on an evolving musical path that took him from his home in Benin to Ivory Coast, then Paris, then to Boston, Los Angeles and around the world, Loueke has been catching ears and raising eyebrows with increasing admiration.
Loueke’s development as a world-class, world beat guitarist and composer resulted in his third and most recent album on the Blue Note label, "Heritage," a departure from his acclaimed first two albums with Blue Note, the acoustic-instrumented "Karibu" and "Mwaliko," with its more electric sound and a new lineup of musicians.
A native of Benin, Loueke achieves a bond among jazz and the sounds of West Africa that signifies the uniqueness of his music.
"I have two heritages," says Loueke about his background.
Growing up in Benin, Loueke began his musical adventures as a vocalist and percussionist, picking up the guitar at age 17. A one-time street performer in Benin, Loueke’s first guitar was strung with bicycle brake cables. After his exposure to jazz, he made his way to Ivory Coast to attend the National Institute of Art. In 1994, he moved to Paris to study at The American School of Modern Music, then to Boston on full scholarships from Berklee School of Music.
He was then accepted to the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and has since embarked on a career as a jazz star, playing in groups led by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard and others. He has also appeared on recordings by jazz legends Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and has recorded with Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Avishai Cohen, Kendrick Scott and others.
Hancock describes Loueke as "a musical painter." His music is a collage of styles, dabbled with African folk forms, brushstrokes of exquisite jazz melodies, and copious amounts of harmonic exploration, all layered with virtuoso guitar technique.
During this event, jazz photographer and author, Jean Germain, will sign her book "Jazz From Row Six." Proceeds from book sales will benefit the VJC’s educational program. For 26 years, perched in her seat in row six at the Sarasota Jazz Festival, Germain photographed many musical jazz legends. "Jazz From Row Six" includes more than 100 photographs of music greats like Milt Hinton, Gerry Mulligan, Marian McPartland, Lionel Hampton and Tito Puente. Before the show and during the intermission, attendees can browse Germain’s book and talk with her.
Lionel Loueke at the Vermont Jazz Center is made possible with support from Adam Gebb of Cultural Intrigue, as well as ongoing support of the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, The Hampton Inn of Brattleboro and VPR and WFCR.
Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts). Tickets are available at In the Moment Record Store in Brattleboro, at www.vtjazz.org or can be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1.