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Lionel Loueke - 'Gaia'

Ben Gray
Staff Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Lionel Loueke's newest trio album Gaia has the guitarist rocking hard, indulging in trippy effects on his instrument and in odd, but very natural-sounding, time signatures. It's also one of the most compelling listens you'll come across in 2015. You want this one.

Loueke's trio of 15 years consists of Ferenc Nemeth on drums and Massimo Biolcati on bass, along with Loueke on guitar. From the first notes of "Broken", Loueke and the trio are off and running with odd-meter vamps and hard rocking guitar solos. The album's tunes have a sense of immediacy, as if they were being created on the spot and very much in the moment. There are composed heads (or in some cases riffs to launch a solo), but by the time Loueke's effect-laden solos hit your ears, that will be all that matters. There are strange time signatures, but you won't notice it's in 17/8 or whatever unless you decide to count along, because the band sounds incredibly comfortable in these tunes. Nemeth and Biolcati have no problem keeping up with Loueke here and pushing incredibly hard. Parts of the album are reminiscent of Band of Gypsys-era Hendrix, and others of Led Zeppelin: Nemeth gets his John Bonham on at the end of "Sleepless Night" and "Wacko Loco" (best song title ever?) has the best rock guitar solo this side of Jimmy Page. That said, the trio does have some calmer moments - on "Rain Wash", Loueke plays acoustic guitar and the trio creates an impressionistic canvas. That is followed by "Forgiveness", with a beautiful theme and feel.

"Forgiveness" is followed by "Even Teens", which brings back the hard-driving weirdness that dominates this album. The tune starts with a wild bass solo introduction from Biolcati before moving into a stop-start rhythm. Two of the most ear-catching themes from Gaia are "Procession", with a melodic, almost Beatles-ish guitar riff, and "Aziza Dance", with its bouncy rhythms and interplay among the drums, bass, and guitar.

Lionel Loueke Trio - Aziza Dance (Live)

Gaia is stunning from start to finish - the trio covers a range of moods and showcases their virtuosic abilities in an almost casual way throughout. Pick it up when it's released on October 30th.

Lionel Loueke is touring in support of Gaia now - check him out with his trio:
November 19 - 92nd Street Y, NYC
November 20 - Regattabar, Boston
November 21 - Hopkins Club, Baltimore
December 8-9 - Jazz Standard, NYC