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. 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 will bring his unique sound to the Vermont Jazz Center stage on Saturday, October 13, at 8 pm. 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 between jazz and the sounds of West Africa that signifies the uniqueness of his music. “I have two heritages,” notes Loueke. “One is from my ancestors from Africa. But also I have the heritage from the Occident, from the West, from Europe and the United States.” His album “Heritage” reflects his multiple musical and artistic influences. 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 a full scholarship 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 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.
Herbie 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.
Tickets for Loueke at VJC on October 13 are $20 for general admission and $15 for students with ID; contact VJC about educational discounts. Tickets are available at In the Moment Record Store in Brattleboro, at www.vtjazz.org or they can be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, (802) 254-9088, ext. 1.