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Biography of Lionel LOUEKE

Benin > Music : Lionel LOUEKE

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Biography :

Lionel Loueke ( 1973), is a Jazz guitarist Guitarist from Benin  (west African country) who lives in NYC and who has recorded or played with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Jeff Tain, Bob Hurst, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson,etc

Guitartist Lionel Loueke has earned a reputation in jazz circles as “a startlingly original voice.” A sideman, first with Terence Blanchard, and now with Herbie Hancock, he is a native of Benin, West Africa. 

African guitarist and percussionist Lionel Loueke was born in Benin in 1973 and the music he writes and performs is infused with his native culture. The technical mastery of his instrument, coupled with his soulful and organic yet cosmic melodies and ideas, have placed him at the forefront of guitarists around the world. He has mastered every inch of his instrument, coaxing sounds from the strings and body that have thrilled national and international audiences. Lionel Loueke's presence on the jazz and world music scenes has gone from a whisper to a scream.

His passionate musical voyage began with percussion instruments he was given as a small boy. In his mid-teens he fashioned a makeshift guitar using bicycle cables for strings and he never looked back.

Loueke's dedication to the guitar took him to the Ivory Coast in 1990 for four years of musical training at the National Institute of Art. Listening to eminent jazz musicians like Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, and George Benson inspired him to take the next step in his career and he enrolled in the American School of Modern Music in Paris, where he received his Diploma in 1998. A year later, he was given a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he earned a degree in jazz performance and received the Dave Holland Award in recognition of outstanding musicianship. Loueke also received a Special Citation for outstanding musicianship from the International Association for Jazz Education.

Loueke was selected to audition for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, the prestigious two-year graduate level program at the University of Southern California. He was invited to join the Class of 2003 following a worldwide search by a panel of judges including jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard and Wayne Shorter. Loueke received a full scholarship, studying and performing with jazz greats including Kenny Barron, Dave Holland, John Scofield, Wayne Shorter, Steve Turre, and Terence Blanchard, the program's Artistic Director.

During his time in the Monk program, Loueke was named the first place winner of the 2002 Fish Middleton Jazz Scholarship at the East Coast Jazz Festival. Also during this time, Loueke became part of Terence Blanchard's band. Soon after, the band released Bounce on the Blue Note label.

Loueke moved to New York in 2003 after finishing the Monk program and has quickly established himself as a premier new talent on the jazz scene today, appearing at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Blue Note, among dozens of other venues.

The previous  yeasr have been a whirlwind of high-profile collaborations for Loueke. In addition to recording and touring with Terence Blanchard, Loueke is part of the new lineup of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters '05, which also includes John Mayer, Roy Hargrove, and Marcus Miller.

In August 2005, Loueke performed in Japan as part of the concerts put together by Carlos Santana to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings there. Herbie Hancock remarked, "When Lionel played, he blew everyone's minds - the audience and Carlos' band. Their jaws were hanging. Lionel can play anything: totally out, blues, tear-jerking stuff, rock and African."

Gilfema, the trio Loueke co-leads with drummer Ferenc Nemeth and bassist Massimo Biolcati, released its debut self-titled CD in September 2005. The disc offers a quiet, dreamy soundscape and fast, angular playing, all infused with West African musical colors.

When not on tour, Loueke is active on the New York jazz scene, playing with Richard Bona, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Gretchen Parlato, and Jeff Ballard.

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Last update : 05/25/2009

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