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Lionel Loueke

A brilliant and highly original guitarist from the West African country of Benin, Lionel Loueke has already gained fame during a relatively brief period of time. An older brother played guitar professionally but Loueke was already 17 before he started. While interested in Afro-pop music, he discovered jazz through a George Benson record and was soon exploring Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. Loueke attended the National Institute of Art in the Ivory Coast, worked regularly in local clubs, and in 1994 moved to Paris to study jazz at the American School of Modern Music. After graduating, he was awarded a scholarship at Berklee and moved to the United States. At Berklee Loueke formed a trio with fellow students bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth both of whom are in his longtime trio.

After Berklee, Loueke attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz where he greatly impressed Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard. He gained important experience playing, touring and recording with Blanchard’s sextet and he has recently been touring with Herbie Hancock’s quartet, participating in Hancock’s award-winning recording River: The Joni Letters. Loueke has recorded several well-received albums as a leader, including Karibu (Blue Note) that has Hancock and Wayne Shorter as guest artists. He has also recorded with Charlie Haden, Francisco Mela and Avishai Cohen. A subtle improviser with a creative style who mixes aspects of his West African folk heritage with jazz, Loueke is also a fluent and appealing singer.