Guitarist Lionel Loueke came to jazz via an early immersion in African music in his homeland of Benin, a grounding that has contributed to the distinctive style that caught the ears of Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard, both of whom have called on him on a regular basis.
Alongside those high-profile associations, Loueke has carved out his own niche as a leader, both with the collective trio Gilfema (which he says is now ‘kind of dying’ as the artists pursue other interests) and his own trio.
Loueke is currently signed to Blue Note Records, and is well versed in the jazz guitar lexicon. He cites Wes Montgomery as ‘still my favourite guitar player’, and acknowledges the influence of the likes of Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Pat Martino, as well as Hancock and Wayne Shorter.
It has all combined to produce a very individual musician, but one who still values the early lessons he absorbed back in Benin, where he started out playing percussion before taking up guitar.
‘I never lost the way we play in Africa – how the music is related to everyday life and what you play is definitely your heart first of all. When I was in music school in New York, at one point I almost lost that – I started becoming very intellectual in everything I was playing. But the good thing is I found my way to go back to that natural thing I didn’t want to lose.’
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Fri 26 Jun