Lionel Loueke: Karibu (2008)
The 34 year-old Loueke's sound reflects his globetrotting history; his exceptional guitar playing and gentle vocals seamlessly blend advanced jazz technique with traditional African influences, the AfroPop of Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade and a healthy dose of Brazilian samba. It's an intoxicating mix that impresses for its originality, imagination and beauty, as well as its imposing musicianship.
On the album's title cut, for example, Loueke (ably backed by his longtime trio mates Massimo Biolcati on bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums) lays down an intricate, oddly-metered guitar groove while singing in unison (á la Benson) and providing rhythmic tongue clicks. He also has no problem holding his own with Hancock and Shorter, who sit in for two tunes apiece and are featured together on the exploratory "Light Dark" (only the second time the two have appeared together as sidemen for the label since the 1967 Lee Morgan album, The Procrastinator). Other highlights include a breezy take on Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark" and a gorgeous version of Coltrane's "Naima," with a soaring soprano sax contribution from Shorter. The album closes on a festive note with the danceable African melody "Nonvignon," a spirited end to a memorable recording filled with promise.
Track Listing: Karibu; Seven Trees; Skylark; Zala; Naima; Benny's Tune; Light Dark; Agbannon; Blues; Nonvignon.
Personnel: Lionel Loueke: guitar, vocals; Massimo Biolcati: bass; Ferenc Nemeth: drums; Herbie Hancock: piano; Wayne Shorter: soprano saxophone.
Record Label: Blue Note Records