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Review: Lionel Loueke Trio at the Jazz Standard NYC, February 26

LIONEL LOUEKE TRIO plus special guest JASON MORAN
PRESENTED IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE FREIHOFER’S SARATOGA JAZZ FESTIVAL
The Jazz Standard, NYC - February 26, 2011

Lionel Loueke – vocals, guitar
Jason Moran – piano
Massimo Biolcati – bass
Ferenc Nemeth – drums

I don't actually call myself a reviewer, and don't claim to critique the arts I talk about here on my blog - I'm just a lover of art and culture, an amateur in the literal sense. The idea of reviewing seems particularly silly, though, when confronted by a great talent like Lionel Loueke and the trio/quartet I caught at the Jazz Standard on Saturday night.

He plays a cool looking nylon stringed guitar, bolstered by drums and upright bass, and joined by pianist Jason Moran later on in a set of complex yet melodic contemporary jazz. He's a virtuoso level musician, that's no contest, and the music is definitely of the moment, but still accessible to anyone who loves good music.

A native of Benin, the rest of the cast here is international, with Hungarian Ferenc Nemeth on drums and Italian/Swiss bassist Massimo Biolcati. That trio was joined by local pianist Jason Moran to finish the set. The usual round of jazzy solos is inventive to the point that I forgot it was the usual round of solos, each musician adding something unique to mesmerizing overall effect. Lionel is also a vocalist with a rich voice, sometimes singing without words. It's jazz with the outlines of West Africa that slips in and out of the melodies, lit up by his liquid and sometimes lightning speed guitar playing and a very charming, low-key stage presence.

Many thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Moussa for introducing me to this amazing artist. Lionel’s latest CD is entitled Mwaliko, and you can check out the trio in this clip:

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