Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 12, No.6, 2013

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Robert J. Lewis
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Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
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Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
Arioli & Officer
Jean Félix Mailloux
Vijay Iyer
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: LIONEL LOUEKE

#&169 Chantel Levesque

Not to be discounted in the enjoyment of innovative or unusual jazz is figuring it out: the interval and cadence that personalizes it, and the early influences (familial, geographical, sociological) that unconsciously shape and inflect both composition and performance into instantly recognizable portraits of the artist.

When we speak of a musician growing into his signature or style, it requires that he be wholly himself in his music, meaning that his essential task is to absorb and then dissolve the aggregate of his schooling and influences into his own person. And since no two individuals are alike, there can be no formula or algorithm to help us identify a signature that, despite the unceasing renewal of context and content, always remains the same. We note that with significantly less to learn and schooling not required, most rock and pop composers discover their style before the age of 25; jazz composers much later in life.

For the occasion of the 2013 Montreal International Jazz Festival, guitarist/composer Lionel Loueke left no doubt that each and every one of his compositions are stories that speak to his life experience through music. Both his writing and soloing represent new ways of thinking about jazz because he doesn’t think of himself exclusively as a jazz musician. Without flaunting orthodoxy, he sees himself as a vehicle or facilitator for music that he allows to follow its natural course – genre and borders be damned: Benin-born Loueke is much more than the tidy sum of his African roots and European and American schooling.

Performing tracks from his most recent CD Heritage, with Marc Guiliana on drums and the fabulously creative Nigerian-born Michael Olatuja on bass, Loueke immediately grabs the attention of the listener because his music seems to defy his African origins; he insists that his writing be shaped by and reflect his personal experience. Among the first to have grasped the importance of this lesson in authenticity was Jimi Hendrix, who refused to be straight-jacketed by the colour of his skin and the codes of the 'hood.

Loueke, who on two occasions has been named DownBeat’s Rising Star Guitarist, gravitates towards a sound that is electric, but toned down by his preference for nylon strings instead of the conventional steel string, on top of which he dispenses with the pick in favour of classical finger picking. And while the sound is quite unusual and thus draws attention to itself, audiences are note-quick to recognize that the guitarist’s idiosyncratic approach to his instrument is always in service of music that is in equal parts intimate and urbane.

If, as subliminal influences, the major geographical themes of Loueke’s life are notationally on the same page, he turns the page when it comes to the delivery of his fusion, which is unconventional in the best sense. By staying true to his creative centrifuge, he revitalizes the genre as well as enlarges its possibilities.

Compared to the steel string, the nylon generated note, like the banjo note, dies out quickly, resulting in snappy, staccato like runs that are remarkable for the easy breezes they leave in their wake. In the context of electric guitar, the effects are indeed gratifying. Perhaps Loueke, who has lived the greater part of his adult life in the modern city, is nostalgic for the wide open spaces he enjoyed in childhood.

The plucky nylon string sound precludes extended sequences of melody. During a concert there are interludes when it feels like he’s trying to occupy two different spaces at the same time, at which point his inventive soloing turns into a calculated rage against the inarticulate: he makes the string bite, snap, pinch and smart, until it retreats and recoils and briefly resolves into unexpected stillness. He sets up the improvisational sections by using the electric component of the guitar for chordal sequences that he blurs and distorts in order to more effectively throw the solo into relief.

As a musician, Loueke makes a compelling case that he is comfortable as a jazz outsider who is already in the zone, and confident that his inner visions are the stuff around which new categories of listeners are founded and sustained, brave new listeners who delight in the intricacies of jazz as well as original music wherever it travels.

If press clippings and peer recognition are reliable indicators, Lionel Loueke is a guitar happening the likes of which jazz hasn’t seen in many a year. That he cannot compete with Sylvain Luc and Russell Malone in terms of technique and dexterity is a measure of his exceptional ability (not unlike Bill Frisell) to infuse acoustic space with the force of his personality and enduring compositions. In a very short time Loueke has become a sound to reckon with in jazz because his feelings have found the form that best answers to what audiences cherish most in the making of music.

Photo© Chantal Levesque


John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
Ornette Coleman
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