Oct 13, 2012
Lionel Loueke is an astonishing guitar player and I would like to call the performance I saw last night at the Regattabar “virtuosic,” but that wouldn’t quite cover it.
It woudn’t cover it because, while Loueke is undeniably a virtuoso, the music I heard last night, really, the act of continuous, protean, phenomenal creation to which I bore witness, seemed less a testament to or the pinnacle of human achievement, as virtuosity often is, and more like the act of a god.
And yet, of course, Loueke and his accompanists—the ecstaticly focused Michael Olatuja and the nerdily spectactular Mark Giuliana—are mortals. For this reason, their performance reminded me instead of the infinite possibilities of music, the unending invention of which the musical mind is capable, and not simply that in music there are, on the one hand, the gods, to which these gentlemen would be unquestionably numbered, and on the other, everybody else.
The scope of the music they played was very broad, encompassing everything from jazz and blues to mathy prog to funk to Juju and other west African traditions. At times, it sounded like a more melodically and harmonically rich version of James “Blood” Ulmer’s early 80s work, with the bass and drums tumbling over each other while Loueke showed just how many sounds a guitar could make and how varied a Klangwelt one could conjure with electricity, wire and wood.
At other times, the music was perplexing in its vorticism, its unbridled chaoticism, a maelstrom which caused the bewildered listener to wonder at the apparently telepathic connection between the players (an overused trope in jazz criticism, I know) and, ultimately, to question all assumptions about what music and, in fact, the world could be.
And, at other times, the music was simply beautiful, joyous and entrancing.
I love seeing music that is amazing, surprising and inspiring and last night I was amazed, surprised and inspired not only by the incredible, overwhelming musicality of what these mortals, if that’s what they were, played, but also by the sheer, visible delight with which they played it.
If you like music, you have to see and hear Lionel Loueke.