Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012 Preview – Lionel Loueke

The second day of this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival will have a distinct international flair.  And none more so than the remarkable guitarist Lionel Loueke, who hails from the West African country of Benin.  If you haven’t heard Mr. Loueke before, do yourself a favor and listen to these clips. After you’ve listened, if you’re anywhere within a couple hundred miles of Atlanta, do yourself an even bigger favor and get to the AJF on Sunday and hear Lionel Loueke live.

Lionel Loueke began playing percussion instruments around the age of 9, but was influenced by an older brother who played guitar, which he began playing himself in his late teens. It took Loueke a year to earn the $50 he needed to buy his first guitar. However, he could not afford to replace the strings which had to be special-ordered from Nigeria. Instead, he soaked his strings in vinegar to keep them clean. When the strings broke, he had to replace them with bicylce brake cables, which were very hard on his fingers.

Loueke got his first professional job by accident, when a club manager heard him playing a guitar he had grabbed off the bandstand during a break and offered him work. He played African pop music, but discovered jazz when a friend returned from Paris with a George Benson album. This inspired Loueke to study jazz in Paris. He then won a scholarship to study at Berklee.

In 2002 Loueke began playing with trumpeter Blanchard. Loueke was featured on two albums with Blanchard for Blue Note Records, Bounce and Flow. He subsequently has had a prolific career as a sideman. He has performed on jazz pianist Herbie Hancock’s albums Possibilities and River: The Joni Letters . In addition, Loueke has worked with a host of major jazz artists, from Wayne Shorter to Charlie Haden to Dianne Reeves and so many more.

Loueke’s unforgettable guitar, which mixes African traditions with samba and jazz and his captivating vocals have been captured on several solo albums, the most recent being Mwaliko on the Blue Note Label. However any of Loueke’s other albums, including Karibu, Virgin Forest and In a Trance are all worth acquiring. His third album for Blue Note Heritage, co-produced by Robert Glasper, is due out this August.

But I reiterate – seeing Lionel Loueke live is better than any of those albums. He will perform at 7 pm, this Sunday on the Atlanta Jazz Festival Mainstage. For further information about Mr. Loueke, visit his website

For further information about all of the great 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival Performances go to


One Response to “Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012 Preview – Lionel Loueke”

  1. […] African guitarist Lionel Loueke and his trio were next on the Mainstage. Many in the audience knew Mr. Loueke from his work with […]

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