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Lionel Loueke: GAïA

Mark F. Turner By

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Guitarist Lionel Loueke brings a presence to jazz unlike any other due in part to his West African upbringing heard in the uniqueness of his playing, vocals and phrasing which have enriched recordings from trumpeter Terence Blanchard to singers Angelique Kidjo and Luciana Souza. Recorded live in front of a small audience Gaïa finds Loueke with longtime trio-mates bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth in an intimate session that captures his musicality and spontaneity.

While the audio is not as refined as studio recordings Gilfema (ObliqSound, 2005) or Karibu (Blue Note, 2008), the recording harnesses the trio's artistic energy for an altogether rewarding experience. Things being wildly with "Broken" as Loueke's solos feverishly with gnarly sound effect as the rhythm section powers through the raucous tempo. While Loueke's signature blend of African flavors and jazz is intact, there's a definite rock music influence heard in "Sleepless Nights" and the scorched earth "Wacko Loco" as the trio rips through the killer riff.

But as usual, it's not easy to pigeonhole Loueke's music. There are melodious yet odd metered changes that travel from get-down funkiness in "Aziza Dance" to breezy atmospherics in "Source of Love." The music's playground includes an using an array of sound effects that range from grimy overdrive to silky synth keyboard-like emulations in "Veuve Malienne" enriched by Loueke's emotive African fingerpicking that flourishes in the tune "Forgiveness."

Gaïa 's meaning is a nod to Mother Earth, the music shedding light about the impact of humans on the planet. Add some funky string slap techniques, electronic touches, and psychedelia ("Eventeens"); gut-bucket rock blues ("Procession") and end things with a jamming West Africanized cover of the Bee Gees "How Deep Is Your Love" and this is one of Loueke's most memorable releases.

Track Listing: Broken; Sleepless Night; Sources of Love; Wacko Loco; Aziza Dance; Rain Wash; Forgiveness; Eventeens; Gaïa; Veuve Malienne; Procession; How Deep Is Your Love.

Personnel: Lionel Loueke: electric guitar; Massimo Biolcati: bass; Ferenc Nemeth: drums.

Title: GAïA | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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