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For Lionel Loueke, the key to creativity is overcoming fear

Lionel Loueke
JB MILLOT
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Let Me Tell You About It is now a podcast, and in our inaugural episode, Greg Bryant catches up with guitarist Lionel Loueke.

In our inaugural episode, we catch up with guitarist Lionel Loueke. For over 15 years, he has dazzled worldwide audiences with a unique instrumental wizardry. He is also featured prominently as a sideman in the ensembles of Herbie Hancock. Compositionally, Loueke's language on the guitar is built on strong, driving bass lines often juxtaposed with a percussive vocal styling first developed in his native country of Benin. As an improviser, he exerts a magical command of his instrument over shifting time signatures, harmonic progressions, and song structures.

In our conversation, we learn that Loueke, early in his career, adopted a practice of choosing courage over fear. One proving ground happened after his first two years in the United States; he auditioned for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in 2001. The evaluating panel then included Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard. Loueke not only entered the program, but his resume very quickly grew to include work with all three musicians. Loueke's latest album, Close Your Eyes, continues his momentum and imagination using the Great American Songbook as a vehicle. For our Vinyl Word album feature, we spotlight a Hancock classic masterpiece, Sextant.

Let Me Tell You About It is produced for WBGO Studios by Billy Robinson and Greg Bryant.

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.