Weekender

‘It’s like the different languages I speak’: Lionel Loueke Trio gathers multicultural jazz influences for musical ‘Heritage’

A jazz performance by the Lionel Loueke Trio, featuring bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Mark Guiliana, will focus on material from Loueke’s 2012 album, “Heritage.”
A jazz performance by the Lionel Loueke Trio, featuring bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Mark Guiliana, will focus on material from Loueke’s 2012 album, “Heritage.” Photo provided

Jazz is the common thread among many cultures and influences for guitarist Lionel Loueke. His music reflects a combination of his travels and influences, but he tries to make the finished product as seamless as possible.

“I try to find the most natural way possible to mix African music with classical or jazz,” Loueke said. “It’s like the different languages I speak … it’s the same with playing music. I try to do it in the most organic way possible.”

Loueke and his trio will perform at Schwab Auditorium on April 23 as part of the Penn State Center for the Performing Arts’ season.

Loueke was raised in Africa and has studied at the American School of Modern Music in Paris and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. His mentors include Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terrence Blanchard.

Laura Sullivan, Center for the Performing Arts marketing director, said Loeke came onto the center’s radar at Winter Jazzfest in New York City. Sullivan and colleague Amy Dupain Vashaw saw him perform and thought he would be a good fit for Penn State.

“He is an amazing guitar player and he explores so many different musical styles,” Sullivan said. “He has a real world music flavor and everything he plays reflects the areas of the world that have influenced him in some way.”

Loueke will be joined for this performance by bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer Mark Guiliana. Their set will focus primarily on material from Loueke’s 2012 album, “Heritage.” Loueke’s performance is one of several jazz concerts in Schwab Auditorium this season after suggestions from the center’s jazz audience.

“Our jazz patrons tell us they enjoy hearing jazz in that venue because it lends itself to a more intimate experience than Eisenhower Auditorium,” Sullivan said.

After completing this tour, Loueke will head into the studio to record a new album. In the two years since “Heritage” was released, he has collected enough material for two new albums — a good problem for a musician to have.

“One project is an acoustic trio with material in odd meters and crazy time signatures, and the other is an Afrobeat project with electric piano, trumpet and drums,” Loueke said. “It will be a very busy year for me for sure but I’m enjoying it because I love what I do.”

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