Lionel Loueke

Welcome to my Official Website

New album: The Journey

The Auditions for the Jazz Campus where I will be teaching with Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier, Mark Turner and many others will start soon.
Check the website if you are interested.

Lionel's Bio

Originally from the small West African nation of Benin, guitarist Lionel Loueke has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past ten years.


2007 Participation as guitarist on the GRAMMY Award-winning recording,
“River: The Joni Letters” (Album of the Year)

2008 Up & Coming Musician of the Year
Jazz Journalists Association (Jazz Award)

2010 World Music Album of the year - EDISON JAZZ/WORLD –
Lionel Loueke (Mwaliko, Blue Note Records)

2013 Instrumentalist des Jahres International – ECHO Jazz
Gitarre (Heritage, Blue Note Records)


“Among the young musicians I’ve heard recently, he is the one that stands out for me”
Herbie Hanckook

“...I was immediately intrigued by his background and musical influences, for he was seemingly at home not just in his native Benin, but also in the world of the New York jazz scene.”
Kevin Dawe | The New Guitarscape...

“Among the international artists merging jazz and their native cultures is the Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke.”
Nate Chinen

Starting out on vocals and percussion, Lionel Loueke picked up the guitar late, at age 17. After his initial to exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the National Institute of Art in nearby Ivory Coast. In 1994 he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris, then went to the U.S. on a scholarship to Berklee College of Music. From there, Loueke gained acceptance to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he encountered his Gilfema bandmates Biolcati, Nemeth, Parlato and other musicians with whom he would form lasting creative relationships.

In 2008 and 2009, Lionel Loueke was picked as top Rising Star guitarist in DownBeat magazine's annual Critics Poll.

Praised by his mentor Herbie Hancock as "a musical painter," Lionel Loueke combines harmonic sophistication, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African music, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. JazzTimes wrote "Loueke's lines are smartly formed and deftly executed. His ear-friendly melodicism draws both from traditional African sources and a lifetime of closely studying the likes of Jim Hall and George Benson, and his rhythmic shifts come quickly and packed with surprises."

After graduating from Berklee College of Music, Lionel Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles where he had the opportunity to study his greatest mentors: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.

Soon after his time at the Monk Institute, Lionel Loueke began focusing exclusively on nylon-string acoustic guitar, an instrument on which he's developed a signature voice.

Lionel Loueke released his first album In a Trance (2005) on Space Time Label, then three albums on Obliqsound Label as a leader (Virgin Forest - 2006) and with Gilfema (Gilfema - 2005, Gilfema + 2 - 2008)

His first release on Blue Note Label Karibu (2008), featuring the trio with Hancock and Wayne Shorter as special guests, won widespread critical praise.

His sophomore release for Blue Note, Mwaliko (2010), followed up acclaimed Karibu offered a series of searching, innovative, intimate duets with Angelique Kidjo, Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona and Marcus Gilmore - artists and allies who continue to have a profound impact on Loueke's vision as a bandleader.

Hailed as a "gentle virtuoso" by Jon Pareles of The New York Times, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke follows up with Heritage (released in August 2012), co-produced by piano great and Blue Note label mate Robert Glasper. Lionel Loueke, long known for his nylon-string acoustic guitar, releases here a more electric album.

In 2015, Loueke chose to record Gaía, his remarkable rock-infused fourth Blue Note album, live in the studio with an intimate audience in attendance.

Loueke has appeared on numerous standout recordings such as Terence Blanchard’s Grammy-nominated Flow (2005) and Hancock’s Grammy-winning River: The Joni Letters (2008). Lionel appeared on recordings by such legends as Jack DeJohnette (Sound Travels), Charlie Haden (Land of the Sun), Kenny Barron (The Traveler) and Gonzalo Rubalcaba (XXI Century). He has also appeared on recordings by Esperanza Spalding, Joe Lovano, Gretchen Parlato, Avishai Cohen, Kendrick Scott and other leading peers.

He has also toured the world as a member of Hancock’s band for more than ten years and starts touring with Chick Corea this year after recording his last album to be released.

Lionel Loueke is also a member of Blue Note’s 75th anniversary all-star band with Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire and Marcus Strickland.

These experiences all inform Loueke's extraordinary work as a leader.

On Tour

On Tour

Sat Feb 22 2020

Otis A. Singletary Center for the Arts
Lexington, KY, United States

Raul Midón & Lionel Loueke

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Sun Feb 23 2020

The AMP by Strathmore
North Bethesda, MD, United States

Raul Midón & Lionel Loueke

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Wed Feb 26 2020

City Winery Chicago
Chicago, IL, United States

Raul Midón & Lionel Loueke

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Thu Feb 27 2020

Nighttown Small Room
Cleveland Heights, OH, United States

Lionel Loueke Solo

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Sat Feb 29 2020

Koerner Hall Telus Center of the Performing Arts
Toronto, On, Canada

Raul Midón & Lionel Loueke

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Sun Mar 1 2020

Shalin Liu Performance Center of Rockport Music
Rockport, MA, United States

Raul Midón & Lionel Loueke

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Tue Mar 3 2020

Jazz Standard
New York, NY, United States

Lionel Loueke Trio Feat Eric Harland - drums and Massimo Biolcati - bass

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Wed Mar 4 2020

Jazz Standard
New York, NY, United States

Lionel Loueke Trio Feat Eric Harland - drums and Massimo Biolcati - bass

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Thu Mar 05 2020

LA Philharmonic
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Wed May 13 2020

Gilfema at The Jazz Gallery
New York, NY, United States

Lionel Loueke -guitar, voice, Massimo Biolcati -bass, Ferenc Nemeth - drums

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Fri May 15 2020

Gilfema at Bob Stop
Cleveland, OH, United States

Lionel Loueke -guitar, voice, Massimo Biolcati -bass, Ferenc Nemeth - drums

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Sat May 16 2020

Gilfema at Scullers Jazz Club
Boston, MA, United States

Lionel Loueke -guitar, voice, Massimo Biolcati -bass, Ferenc Nemeth - drums

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Sat May 23 2020

Tokyo Jazz Festival, Tokyo, Japan

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Sun May 24 2020

Tokyo Jazz Festival, Tokyo, Japan

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Wed Jul 01 2020

KKL Luzern, Konzertsaal, Lucerne, Switzerland

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Thu Jul 02 2020

Jazzfest Wien, Vienna, Austria

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Tue Jul 07 2020

Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Tue Jul 08 2020

Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Sun Jul 12 2020

North Sea Jazz, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Mon Jul 13 2020

JazzOpen Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Wed Jul 15 2020

MoldeJazz, Molde, Norway

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Thu Jul 16 2020

Pori Jazz, Pori, Finlandy

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Sun Jul 19 2020

Roma Summer Fest at Cavea, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, Italy

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Wed Jul 29 2020

EDP Cool Jazz, Cascais, Portugal

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Wed Sep 23 2020

Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Sat Sep 27 2020

LA Phil, Los Angeles, CA

Herbie Hanckock Group Band: TBD

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Listen and Purchase Journey

Lionel's Videos

Lionel Loueke's Discography

2015 | Gaïa

Blue Note Records

2014 | Virgin Forest


2012 | Heritage

Blue Note Records

2010 | Mwaliko

Blue Note Records

2008 | Karibu


2005 | In a Trance

Space Time Records, Ward Records

2004 | Incantation


On Tour

Lionel Loueke's Collaborations

2018 | Obsession

Céline Rudolph - Lionel Loueke

2018 | Chinese Butterfly

Record Label

Chick Corea & Steve Gadd

2018 | Newvelle Season Two

Newvelle Records

John Patitucci, Kevin Hays - Lionel Loueke, Jon Cowherd, Chris Tordini*, Aruán Ortiz and Rufus Reid

2018 | OLD SOUL

Robi Botos

2017 | Hope

Newvelle Records

Kevin Hays, Lionel Loueke

2017 | KINFOLK

Ropeadope Records

Nate Smith

2017 | Circle Of Shimes


Marius Neset

2017 | Our Point Of View

Blue Note Record

Blue Note All - Stars

2017 | Pannon Blue


Kristóf Bacsó Triad & Lionel Loueke

2017 | The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke

Earshift Records

The Vampires

2017 | Země

Animal Music


2017 | La Diversité

Éditions Record

Nicolas Kummert

2017 | Sound Portraits From Contemporary Africa


Kyle Shepherd

2016 | Speaking in Tongue


Luciana Souza

2016 | The Dream Room

Laura Mvula

2015 | Imagine That

Aznic Records

Daniel Freedman

2014 | EVE

429 Records

Angelique Kidjo

2016 | Aziza

Dare2 Records

Dave Holland

2014 | ‎Time's Tales


Jeff Ballard Trio With Lionel Loueke & Miguel Zenon

2014 | Coalition

Kenny Werner

2013 | EGGUN

Omar Sosa

2013 | Cross Culture

Blue Note

Joe Lovano UsFive

2013 | Magnetic

Blue Note

Terence Blanchard

2012 | Sound Travels

Golden Beam, eOne

Jack DeJohnette

2012 | Biosphere

Enja Records

Florian Weber

2012 | Triumph

Dreamers Collective Records

Ferenc Nemeth


SPassion Productions

Gonzalo Rubalcabar

2010 | The Imagine Project

Hancock Records/Sony Music

Herbie Hancock

2010 | Õÿö

Proper Records, Razor & Tie

Angelique Kidjo


Classics & Jazz France

Michel Portal

2010 | Radio Music Society

Heads Up International, Universal Music Group International

Esperansa Spalding

2010 | Live from Soho

Razor & Tie

Angelique Kidjo

2009 | Choices

Concord Jazz, Universal Music Group International

The Terence Blanchard Group

2009 | In A Dream


Gretchen Parlato

2009 | Kelenia

Motéma Music

Oran Etkin

2008 | The Traveler

Universal, EmArcy, Sunnyside Communications, Inc.

Kenny Barron

2008 | Persona


Massimo Biolcati

2008 | Gilfema + 2


Lionel Loueke, Ferenc Nemeth, Massimo Biolcati, John Ellis, Anat Cohen

2007 | River: The Joni Letters

Verve Records, ООО «Юниверсал Мьюзик»

Herbie Hancock

2007 | After The Big Rain

Anzic Records

Avishai Cohen

2006 | Possibilities

Hear Music, Hancock Music, Vector Recordings

Herbie Hancock

2005 | Flow

Blue Note, Universal, Gala Records

Terence Blanchard

2005 | Gretchen Parlato

Gretchen Parlato

2005 | Gilfema


Lionel Loueke, Ferenc Nemeth, Massimo Biolcati

2003 | Land Of The Sun

Verve Records, Gitanes Jazz Productions, Universal

Charlie Haden with Gonzalo Rubalcaba

2003 | Bounce

Newvelle Records

Terence Blanchard


On Tour

Lionel Loueke From it Mentors

"When I listened to Lionel, I hear not only the beauty, richness and intricacy of the traditional music of our country Benin but also the cutting edge of contemporary sounds" - Angelique Kidjo

"From the time I first met Lionel it was obvious to anyone in the room that this guy was something special. He’s been the shining example of what Jazz is. The combination of respecting the history but not forgetting where you're from. Those two things combined have manifested into something truly unique." - Terence Blanchard

"Lionel never ceases to amaze me. As his bandmate in the Herbie Hancock group, I'm captivated and shaking my head in disbelief every night. His voice is so unique and vitally important; there is none like him. His guitar and his voice are other-worldly. His music will go right to your core. Listen!" - Vinnie Colaiuta

"Lionel is one of the most inventive AND soulful guitarists of his generation. His music is complex but it’s so heartfelt that it never seems academic. I’ve known him for a long time personally, but I’m also a real fan. Each album he releases reminds me of how really special he is." - Marcus Miller

"An absolutely beautiful voice, backed up by incredible guitar chops; there's no doubt he's got the soul and science to prove it!! Keep on keepin' on my brother." - Quincy Jones

"Your music is miraculous. You own everything you do on your instrument and with your voice - it’s all yours and nobody else’s. I enjoyed making music with you so much, and hope we can create more soon again." - Chick Corea

"Lionel’s Loueke is one the most expressive, beautiful musicians on the scene today.. His new release The Journey is full of his love and passion for all of us to embrace.. Lionel’s music simply makes you feel good !" - Joe Lovano

"Lionel Loueke is one of a rare handful of guitarists that move effortlessly between his West African roots and modern American Jazz. His new recording is a musical gift!" - Paul Simon

"Lionel Loueke is one of the most original, essential and inspiring musicians on our planet today." - Sting

Listen and Purchase

On Tour

Lionel Loueke In Press

What do the press say about Lionel Loueke ?

"Loueke is a true original... Loueke sounds spectacular chopping and slashing through burbling funk and heavy riffage... his deeply connected trio generates an immediacy that should be the envy of working bands everywhere." - DownBeat

"Mr. Loueke hails from Benin and has spent the last decade or so finding mainstream avenues for his sinuous, effervescent style... Subtlety has always been a hallmark of this band, and, in some respects, ͞Gaïa͟— full of tripwire rhythmic intricacies that register as casual, even natural — underscores that strength... No other band has quite this sound, and it hasn’t stopped evolving." - New York Times

"This studio-live reunion with bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth opens a powerful new Loueke chapter, in which African-angled world-music, jazz and rock blend seamlessly. The band switch between Hendrix-like wails, kora-like chimes and power-trio rock in a blink, and the songs are consistently strong." - The Guardian

"State-of-the-art guitar-trio jazz." - Financial Times

"The new album is stellar... [GAÏA] capitalizes on jazz’s amoeba-like ability to engulf and incorporate other music." - JazzTimes

"Guitarist Lionel Loueke brings a presence to jazz unlike any other... GAÏA finds Loueke with longtime trio-mates bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth in an intimate session that captures his musicality and spontaneity... this is one of Loueke's most memorable releases." - AllAboutJazz

"a spirited set of raucous and gritty tunes... Gaïa is this trio's baptism in fire, and it is, without a doubt, the most intense music Loueke has produced yet." - AllAboutJazz

"GAÏA finds West African guitarist Lionel Loueke reunited with his longstanding trio of bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth for the first time since 2010's Mwaliko... These trio members need no collaborators, extra production, or overdubs; they can -- and do -- deliver almost endless variations on all the stylistic genres they choose. The kinetic energy and obvious delight expressed by these players in such intimate and idea-rich conversation make GAÏA Loueke's most satisfying release to date" - AllMusic

"After more than a decade of making breezy, Afro-tinged jazz in a variety of settings, guitarist Lionel Loueke gets down to cases on Gaïa, strutting his jazz chops, idiosyncratic phrasing and panoply of tones in a trio setting... Until now, Loueke built a reputation as a solid, sometimes inventive, sideman and a solo artist capable of interesting, often satisfying, work. With Gaïa, he has cemented his reputation as a player." - Creative Loafing

"one of the most exciting new voices on jazz guitar, a finger-picker who combines deep feeling for pulse and intuitive phrasing with cutting-edge approaches to rhythm and melody." - New York City Jazz Record

"His potent new album Heritage...revels in the heavy influence that funk and Afrobeat have had on him. It has a punchy drum sound, woozy electric bass and guitar work that toggles between sharp and slithery.... What sharpens the picture is the writing, which skews refreshingly songlike, girded with sophisticated but intuitive harmony... It’s a variable feast, light-handed about its cultural implications but invested in emotional connection. Mr. Loueke has never had a problem conveying warmth, but his expressive gifts have rarely been marshaled as smartly as they are here, on an album that upholds groove as the ultimate truth." - New York Times

"intensity is of the most smoldering, in-control variety. Loueke’s new album, Heritage almost makes sport of his profound cool." - New York Magazine

"Heritage reflects the guitarist’s musical roots and personal odyssey from his native Benin in West Africa to France and then the United States, where he has established himself as one of the most distinctive new artists on today’s jazz scene." - Associated Press

"...this guitarist weaves jazz and African grooves... from George Benson-esque ruminations to blues jams and Afrobeat funk." - Men’s Journal

"...an album that’s contemplative, sincere and downright comforting." - Okayplayer

"...one of the more interesting releases of 2012. Trading his usual nylon strings for steel and inviting Robert Glaser to co-produce the album, the guitarist sails into new sonic territory here, with a new ensemble—and without sacrificing any of the rhythmic extemporizing that characterizes his sound." - DownBeat

"Glasper’s penchant for obscuring the lines between contemporary and traditional finds a welcoming home in the work of the unceasingly exploratory guitarist Loueke...But for all Glasper’s influence, make no mistake, this is Loueke’s show, his most fully realized leader set to date... Highly entertaining, thoroughly invigorating stuff." - JazzTimes

"Lionel Loueke's Heritage deftly intertwines modern jazz constructs with traditional African themes in a highly personal exploration of these two cultural streams which define Loueke's upbringing and musical identity. The result is a gracious, elevating and welcoming sound that still challenges preconceived notions." - AllAboutJazz

"Loueke’s lines are smartly formed and deftly executed. His ear-friendly melodicism draws both from traditional African sources and a lifetime of closely studying the likes of Jim Hall and George Benson, and his rhythmic shifts come quickly and packed with surprises." - JazzTimes

"Take a gifted West African teenager, hit him with some George Benson, move him to the U.S., and soon you have rising jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke. Karibu is a jamboree of sprung rhythms, splashed with African and Brazilian flavors, in which Loueke scat-sings, drums on his guitar, mouth-clicks and plays some wicked jazz." - TIME

"Mr. Loueke is a gentle virtuoso. As a singer, he has a husky, sincere baritone and a melting falsetto that he uses to scat-sing along with his guitar solos. He’s also a full-fledged jazz guitarist, and he uses both electronics–guitar synthesizer, looping devices–and African roots. In one piece, unassisted by any technology beyond microphone and amplifier, he sang, made percussive tongue clicks and played syncopated guitar chords and leads. He multiplied himself, one way or another, in nearly every song." - The New York Times

"[Loueke] is one of the most striking jazz artists to emerge is some time...a spellbinding presence...a startlingly original voice...Karibu [is] his imaginative and vivid Blue Note debut." - The New York Times

"Lionel Loueke sings and his music rolls along with a feel-good sense of joy...he always radiates a groove...[but] he is also a sophisticated jazz player...Karibu is a thoughtful mix of hybrid grooves, straightahead guitar soloing, free-improv and a couple standards...Virgin Forest was excellent. But Karibu is better, a solid showcase of a new Afro-jazz star who clearly will be with us for a long time." **** - DownBeat

"Inventiveness has always been one of Lionel Loueke’s hallmarks... his daring imagination has made [Karibu] one of the year’s finest jazz releases. A typically resourceful Loueke groove meshes a lilting melody and rich harmonic progression over a quietly propulsive Afro-Brazilian rhythmic bed... His trio seems telepathically attuned." - VIBE

"...an ear-opening delight...this year’s first major jazz revelation." - Billboard

"..a bebop griot... Loueke is at a point in his career where he is no longer a mere talented young player, he is becoming a landmark." - Bloomberg News

"Lionel Loueke masterfully conjures moods and creates alluring soundscapes through a series of stirring duets... a revelation." - JAZZIZ

"Guitarist Lionel Loueke is shaking up the New York jazz scene with a sound that combines post-bebop fusion, lyrical ballads and even African rhythms and melodies. Mwaliko [is] his best work yet... Mwaliko solidifies his standing as a truly original voice in today's jazz." - NPR All Things Considered

"The guitarist Lionel Loueke grew up in Benin, absorbing the guitar traditions of Mail and Nigeria as well as samba and jazz. He sings in a gentle baritone; he also clicks and whistles and makes his guitar speak in a similar way: in taps and scratches, damped single-notes as if struck on a thumb piano, and chords with ringing Impressionist harmony... Mr. Loueke uses the range of his technique, and in the on-rush of ideas, there’s something startling at about every other beat." - The New York Times

"His is a dialect that speaks for the diversity and globalization that is 21st-century jazz... There's no mistaking 'Mwaliko' as pulsing, modern jazz... it strips exotic sounds of their alienating weirdness to reveal something intimate and fascinating underneath... a style capable of ravishing things, especially in spare settings." - NPR Music

"Loueke tips his hat to jazz masters no and then, but the combination of his African roots, nylon string guitars and venturesome spirit—along with his trademark, percolating vocals—project a personality that’s unmistakably his own." - Washington Post

"...music of startling beauty. The approach of Loueke’s trio is melodic and intense, but gentle; it also builds a bridge between the disparate African and American legacies that even the most hardened cynic will delight in. That’s surely why Loueke is fast becoming a major force in the jazz world, and one you can’t miss." - Washington City Paper

"Loueke’s trademark clicking vocals and the pedal effects of his nylon-stringed acoustic guitar give the duets body, while his comfort across post-bop, fusion, and African music sets up fascinating encounters." - Boston Globe

"[Loueke] stands at the juncture of several cultures, his work embracing the folkloric music of his native Benin, the mesmerizing chants of West African antiquity and the impulses of thoroughly contemporary American jazz... Loueke offered an extended solo of remarkable complexity and tonal beauty, unspooling haunting phrases with his voice, percussive clicking effects with his tongue and multiple melodic lines on guitar. Here was Loueke’s art at its most persuasive." - Chicago Tribune

"Guitarist Lionel Loueke knows how to cover a lot of ground and make it all sound of a piece... as accessible as it is uncompromising." - Boston Phoenix

"...one of the most exciting musicians in jazz... one of the great jazz discs so far of 2010." - Buffalo News


On Tour

Get in touch


Louise Holland


Booking North America

Adam Chernick


Booking World ex. North America

Katherine McVicker
Music Works International