Born in Benin in West Africa, jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke has been Herbie Hancock’s guitarist for the past decade. He’s also a member of the all-star Blue Note 75th Anniversary Band with Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Kendrick Scott, Marcus Strickland and Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpeter Keyon Harrold subbed for Akinmusire on the voyage). Lanky and soft-spoken, Lionel speaks excellent English, accented by his native Fon and French. I had the pleasure of interviewing him during the Cunard/Blue Note Jazz at Sea Festival on board the Queen Mary 2 in November. Here are some highlights, as published in DownBeat.
All week long on the ship, people were talking about Lionel’s vocals as well as his guitar playing, especially his brilliant use of a harmonizing box to create a ghostly choir effect on “Message of Hope,” a song written by band-mate Hodge. Lionel told me that song will be included on the first album by the Blue Note 75th Anniversary Band (formerly known as “Our Point of View), to be released later this year.