West African guitarist Lionel Loueke revealed his amazing chops on last year's masterful Virgin Forest, which featured Afro-Latin percussion, odd use of meter, and fretwork that got all kinds of funky. On the recording, as on prior albums Gilfema and In a Trance, Loueke established himself as a musician's musician and not just an adept genre-bender. The guitarist has a penchant for disorienting groove sections and percussive vocalizations (tikka tikka or clackety-cluckety sounds) that add texture to his music. He's also known for scatting gorgeously — if a little absent-mindedly — through his chord changes.
Loueke's new album Karibu marks his Blue Note Records debut, though it's his fourth as a bandleader. Featuring pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter as sidemen, it contains about half as many tracks as Virgin Forest and sounds a lot more spare than previous efforts, though the compositions are very choice. Kicking off with the title track, which is characterized by its upbeat acoustic guitar head and signature tongue-clicking, Karibu ratchets up with "Seven Teens," which features a dissonant, fractured, and thoroughly haunting piano solo by Hancock. Its peak is the Coltrane standard "Naima," which starts out with a stream-of-consciousness percussion intro that completely reinvents the tune, minutes before Shorter comes in with his rippling sax head.
Under the wing of Blue Note this time, Karibu sounds more seamless than previous efforts, and not surprisingly, has garnered more popular and critical acclaim. Still, Loueke's subtle African rhythms and crazy-ass grooves (most of which sound tight enough to be in 4/4) give all his material a real personal flair. He's making moves career-wise, but the funk won't fade out any time soon. (Blue Note)
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