Monday, May 12, 2008

Lionel Loueke – Karibu (Blue Note, 2008)

Guitarist and vocalist Loueke came to the attention of Blue Note records while playing in Herbie Hancock's touring band. He is joined on this record by Massimo Biolcati on bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums. Pianist Hancock and tenor and soprano saxophonist Wayne Shorter guest on the record and their sheer uniqueness tends to steal some of the available thunder. Hancock in particular is just spectacular on “Seven Teens” where his unique piano style is thrown into sharp focus by the open and spare accompaniment. Shorter plays on the John Coltrane classic “Naima” and his pointillist approach to improvisation gives a new spin to this oft-performed standard. Loueke finally gets an excellent and inventive solo spot of his own near the end of the record on “Agbannon Blues.” This is a record that is a little unsure of whether it wants to examine African, jazz or pop music, and while it does each of those pretty well, the overall effect is diffused by a lack of focus and tends to be overwhelmed by the star power of Hancock and Shorter. Hopefully Blue Note will hive this unique musician a chance to shine on his own, either with a solo recording or with a trio recording sans guests.

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