African-born Lionel Loueke next up in Glenwood Springs’ Summer of Jazz |

African-born Lionel Loueke next up in Glenwood Springs’ Summer of Jazz

Publicity photo by Jimmy Katz

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Lionel Loueke brings his unique combination of jazz guitar and African roots influences to the Glenwood Springs Summer of Jazz stage in Two Rivers Park tonight.

The third in the summer concert series begins at 7 p.m. at the park pavilion.

Loueke joins local jazz aficionado and KDNK disc jockey Wick Moses for a concert preview discussion from noon to 1 p.m. today at the Colorado Mountain College Glenwood Center on Blake Avenue. Cost for the drop-in session is $8 per person.

“Loueke has used the many remarkable musical experiences of his 34 years to create his own unique sound as a guitarist, composer, and bandleader,” according to Loueke’s website (

His journey has taken him through hardship growing up in the West African country of Benin and across three continents to pursue his jazz studies. He has mentored with music legends such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard, and eventually landed with the most famous jazz record label in the world, Blue Note.

Born in Benin to parents that he describes as “intellectual,” he said “music was part of everyday life, but not in the family,” according to his website biography.

An older brother did play guitar, however, and was part of a band that played Afro-Pop music in the style of Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade.

“I remember when I was 11 or 12 … just looking at him playing, listening to the music,” he says. When Loueke was 17, his brother finally let him try his guitar, and he quickly realized that he had a great facility for the instrument.

Loueke became enamored with the traditional African music of Benin, as well as Nigeria, Congo, Zaire, Mali and Senegal. However, it was an encounter with jazz music that would set Loueke on a different course. A friend of his brother’s came to visit from Paris, bringing with him a CD of guitarist George Benson.

“I listened to that and it was unreal for me,” Loueke says. “I had to transcribe every single line trying to play like him. Then I tried to check out what happened before him, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass.”

Loueke pursued his musical passions at the National Institute of Art in the Ivory Coast, and in 1994 left Africa for Paris to attend the American School of Modern Music, a small conservatory run by several alumni of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

After graduation, Loueke was awarded a scholarship to come to the United States to attend Berklee, where he met Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth, the musicians who would become his core band. Both had extensively studied African music and were drawn to Loueke who was just beginning to fuse a jazz technique with his African roots.

After graduating from Berklee, Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles along with Biolcati and Nemeth.

He has recorded with numerous jazz artists, including Hancock, Blanchard and Angelique Kidjo, and has four CD releases of his own: “Karibu,” Virgin Forest,” “In a Trance,” and “Gilfema.”

The free Glenwood Summer of Jazz concerts take place rain or shine at the Two Rivers Park pavilion. No dogs and no glass containers allowed in the concert venue.

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