Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CDs with Lionel Loueke (as a guest)

German-born pianist/composer Florian Weber is a busy musician.  Splitting his time between his native country and New York City, he won a scholarship to study at Berklee School of Music in Boston but first concentrated on math and science.  When he finally put his mind to music, Weber studied and worked with numerous musicians including Lee Konitz, Richie Bierach, Joanne Brackeen and Eddie Henderson.

"Biosphere" (ENJA Records) is both the name of his new CD and his quartet, a unit that features Lionel Loueke (guitar), Thomas Morgan (acoustic bass) and Dan Weiss (drums, tabla). The CD is a fascinating mix of Weber originals, a piece co-authored with Mr. Konitz, one Loueke composition, an arrangement of "Clocks" from Coldplay, Jamiroquai's "Cosmic", and a touching solo piano arrangement of Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven." Loueke's "Mivakpola" is a guitar-piano duo that reflects the influence of Ralph Towner while Weber's "Piecemeal" is an exciting slab of funk driven by Morgan and Weiss with catchy interplay between Loueke's acoustic guitar and the leader's Fender Rhodes.  The bass solo on "Clocks" reveals Morgan's intelligent melodic side - when he and Weiss lock in, the music takes off. The title track opens on the active rhythms as the guitar and acoustic piano revolve around them.  A quick break, then into a rubato piano and tabla dialogue that Morgan joins after a minute. In the background, one can hear Loueke clicking out a counter-rhythm and, after a while, the quartet moves into a section that sounds influenced by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays.

Throughout the program, the musicians engage in a variety of rhythmic and melodic dialogues, creating classic tension-and-release as well as solos that keep one's interest.  This is a band that deserves to be heard live. For more information, go to

Ferenc (pronounced "Frank") Nemeth, a native of Hungary, is best known for his work with guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke, a releationship that started when the 2 were studying at Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass.  Along with fellow student Massimo Biolcati (bass), the 3 formed GilFeMa in 2003 and subsequently recorded 2 fine CDs for ObliqSound (Nemeth and Biolcati have recorded with Loueke on 3 of his solo CDs.)

"Triumph" (Dreamers Collective Records) is the percussionist second release under his own name (for his own label); he's created a suite that goes through various emotions, feelings, experiences and aspirations, ranging from "Purpose", "Joy ", "Longing", "Hope", "Sorrow and Wishful Thinking" to the title track. The main ensemble is a quartet composed of Nemeth, Loueke (guitar, voice), Joshua Redman (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Kenny Werner (piano, Fender Rhodes).  Each of them has his own "Interlude" (numbered "I - IV"; Redman's tenor shares his with the drummer) while a majority of the "experiential" pieces have 5-person reed section (conducted and arranged by bandleader/composer Nicolas Sorin.)  While there is no bass player, the bottom is covered by Werner, Loueke and Nemeth's drums.  As for the music, listeners will smile at the rhythmic interplay, the strong yet wonderfully relaxed presence of Redman, Werner's dancing piano phrases, Loueke's joyous blend of percussive picking and melodic invention and the leader's propulsive, mischievous, drumming.  "Longing" is a lovely ballad built off a deliberate piano theme supported by Nemeth's cymbals; Redman enters with the reed section for a secondary theme before a lengthy piano solo leading into Redman's rich tenor exploration. Loueke's acoustic guitar replaces the piano as the foundation before the reed section reenters to usher in the final section.  My words do not do justice to the maturity of Nemeth's composition.

The appropriately-named "Joy" explodes out of the speakers thanks to the drums before moving into a rollicking groove.  Listen to the acoustic guitar lines (and Loueke's spontaneous, wordless, vocal) rippling out over the funky percussion and Werner's active piano. The first "Hope" has an irresistible rhythmic drive, a splendid arrangement for the reeds, and the finely-enunciated left hand of Werner.  "Hope II" shows up 3 tracks later, this time a bit quieter but no less funky, with a horn arrangement one might hear on recording by The Crusaders.

Playful, joyful, exuberant, touching and life-affirming, the music created by Ferenc Nemeth and his friends is a pleasure to get lost in.  Yes, "Triumph" is an appropriate name for this program, one that will reverberate in your soul if and when you allow it in.  For more information, go to

Here's a taste of this fine CD, courtesy of Dreamers Collective Records and IODA Promonet:
Joy (feat. Lionel Loueke, Joshua Redman, Kenny Werner) (mp3)

Saxophonist-composer Jeff Coffin is an in-demand player whose credits include Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, the Dave Matthews Band and, since the late 1990s, Jeff Coffin & The Mu'Tet.  That ensemble has just issued its 5th recording, "Into The Air" (Earup Records), a very tasty confection of funk, electric jazz and several excursions into Weather Report-type material.  Coffin's well-oiled band includes his long-time musical ally Jeff Sipe (drums, percussion), Kofi Burbridge (piano, keys, flute), Bill Fanning (trumpet, "space" trumpet) and Felix Pastorius (electric bass)....yes, he's the son of the late Jaco Pastorius who also works with drummer Cindy Blackman and is subbing for Jimmy Haslip in Yellowjackets.  The CD opens with the slinky, New Orleans funkified "A Half Sleep", with plenty of melodic bass and soulful horns.  The fatback funk continues on "U Don't Say" with both the leader and Fanning using a slew of effects over the rumbling rhythm section. Lionel Loueke (electric guitar, vocalizations) joins the Mu'tet for 2 tracks, the 70's-style boogaloo - his chunky rhythm guitar has a touch of Nile Rodgers beneath Coffin's hearty tenor solo while Loueke's rippling solo comes over the bridge.  One can hear the influence of Zawinul/Shorter on the Coffin/Pastorius original dedicated to and named for the guitarist.  "Loueke" has a melody out of "Mysterious Traveler"; the honoree riffs vocally and on guitar over the hypnotic trumpet and sax lines but the finest touch is Burbridge's lovely flute solo.  "Low Spark", a track credited to the Mu'tet, also has a slinky Middle-Eastern feel in the melody, with a driving rhythm and more fine flute work.  The program closes with the lovely ballad "Beautiful Flower", a rubato piece for quartet (Fanning sits this track out) that has a dramatic piano part and expressive soprano saxophone - it has the feel of an Alice Coltrane composition, with piano glissandos and rattling percussion.

"Into The Air" is a multi-faceted recording, one that blends electronic wizardy with some serious funk.  Not all the songs move this listener but there are pieces (such as the last 3 in the paragraph above) that are excellent.  For more information, go to

1 comment:

  1. Huzzah for Lionel!

    Hi Richard's readers. Here's an interview with Lionel:

    And here's one with Jeff Coffin: