Lionel Loueke: Gaia (Blue Note)

Review by John Stevenson

With Gaia, Beninois guitarist Lionel Loueke follows up on his well-received Blue Note CDs, Karibou and Mwaliko.

Accompanied by long-time bandmates Massimo Biolcati (bass) and Ferenc Nemeth (drums), Gaia is a Don Was production recorded live in the studio with an intimate audience.

The recording aims to draw attention to mankind’s treatment of the planet at a time of increased concern around global warming.

However this is a somewhat spotty outing from a naturally versatile guitarist whose rhythmic African patterns and sheens have undoubtedly infused jazz with new energy.

louekeBringing several hundred watts of rock energy to the session, the plectrist kicks things off with ‘Broken’ – a nod to Jimmy Hendrix. So are ‘Wacko Loco’ and ‘Procession’ which buzz along with an electric charge.

Ever the percussive technician on his instrument, Loueke makes the guitar sound at times like a talking drum or a Senegalese kora.

Somewhat jarringly, in a programme shot through with Loueke’s painterly instrumental originality, he ends the CD with the cheesy ‘How Deep is Your Love?’ of Bee Gees’ fame.