Lionel Loueke, Class of 2003, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance.
Lionel Loueke is a truly original artist who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in his short time on the jazz scene. Born in Benin, Africa, Loueke began playing guitar at the age of 17. He attended the Institute of Art in Ivory Coast, where he studied classical music, and later studied at the American School of Music in Paris. Loueke then moved to the United States to attend the Berklee College of Music. At Berklee, he met bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth who would become an important part of his musical family. He also began developing his personal artistic vision, melding African guitar tradition with jazz harmony, playing the guitar in a new percussive way, and using unusual techniques to alter the sound of the guitar. In 2001, Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance along with Biolcati and Nemeth. At the Institute, he studied with Terence Blanchard as well as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter and was encouraged to further explore his unique method of expression. All three were impressed by Loueke’s originality and by the time he graduated from the Monk Institute, Loueke was touring and recording as a member of Blanchard’s band. He appeared on Blanchard’s Blue Note releases Bounce and Flow, adding his distinctive sound to the music and contributing compositions like “Benny’s Tune,” which is becoming a favorite among musicians and jazz listeners. In 2005, Loueke left Blanchard’s band to tour with Herbie Hancock and further develop his own group. He has since been featured on Hancock’sPossibilities, and performed his arrangement of Sting’s “Sister Moon” alongside Sting. He also performed on Hancock’s Grammy Award-winning River: The Joni Letters. In 2007, Loueke signed with Blue Note and released Karibu, featuring Biolcati and Nemeth along with Hancock and Shorter. His 2010 sophomore Blue Note release, Mwaliko, features Loueke in a series of searching, intimate duets with Angelique Kidjo, Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona and Marcus Gilmore. Loueke is currently touring and performing with his trio and continues to collaborate with Hancock.