Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Originally from Benin, West Africa, Lionel Loueke has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the jazz world. An innovative jazz guitarist, he utilises electronics, looping, mouth percussion and voice.
"Lionel Loueke has a musical sensibility that is decidedly and beautifully African. Born in the West African nation of Benin, the 37-year-old guitarist and vocalist plays his version of jazz steeped in the traditions of his homeland. On , Loueke's second CD for Blue Note Records, he writes most of the album's 12 songs but calls in a few of his friends for help - and he's got some amazing friends. Bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding sits in on two tunes, one a gorgeous duet called "Twins." Bassist/vocalist Richard Bona guests as well, and is especially captivating on the duet "Wishes." And Angelique Kidjo adds her voice to the terrific tune." -Ami O. Downbeat
JazzTimes (p.74) - "One of the more intriguing duets is an expansive version of Wayne Shorter's 'Nefertiti'....Between Loueke's daring harmonic choices and Gilmore's exquisite touch on the kit, this track is a gem."
Personnel: Lionel Loueke (vocals, guitar).
Audio Mixer: Mike Marciano.
Recording information: Aye Studio, Brooklyn, NY; Skyline Studio, Brooklyn, NY; Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY.
Photographer: Jimmy Katz.
Mwaliko is West African guitarist Lionel Loueke's second album for Blue Note. Originally planned as a series of duets, it ultimately became one of duets and trios, in order to to showcase the collective talents of Gilfema, his touring band with bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth. The trio cuts are at the heart of Loueke's modern culture-blurring sound. The interplay of Gilfema offers simultaneous harmonic and rhythmic improvisation; Loueke's guitar is as much a part of the rhythm section as it is a melodic lead. The lockstep changes are immediate, instinctive, and seamless, as in "Griot." Loueke uses his singing voice -- without its other trademark effects of clicking, popping, wet snaps, rapid-fire speech, and solo doubling, etc. The melody is a chant, and establishes a groove that opens a door to improvisation. All three cuts by Gilfema offer straight-ahead jazz fans something to grab onto. The duets, however, add immeasurably to his depth. Loueke and Angélique Kidjo -- whose mothers were friends in Benin -- offer a popping, funky version of "Amio," a West African anthem written by Ebanda Manfred. Loueke's guitar and vocal effects are a virtual rhythm section with melodic flourishes as Kidjo scats, chants, flits, and soars over them. They also team on the traditional "Vi Ma Yon." Loueke pairs with Cameroonian bassist and vocalist Richard Bona on "Wishes" and the album closer "Hide Life" (a word and musical game on the West African style highlife). The former is a beautiful, atmospheric ballad, the latter sprightly and playful. Esperanza Spalding's bass makes an excellent counterpart on "Twins," where she uses her voice in as many ways as he does, and on the jazzier "Flying," where she trills, slips, and doubles her bassline vocally, just he does on guitar. Drummer Marcus Gilmore is enlisted in an electrifying modern, knotty reading of Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti." Mwaliko is an excellent step forward for Loueke, who is quickly proving to be an innovative force in 21st century jazz. ~ Thom Jurek