Album review

Lionel Loueke – ‘Close Your Eyes’

Lionel Loueke – Close Your Eyes

(Sounderscore SO 005. Album Review by Sebastian Scotney)

There is so much to enjoy in Close Your Eyes, guitarist Lionel Loueke’s first ever album of standards, released (*) today. The recorded was made in September 2017 on a one-day break between overlapping tours with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Loueke plays electric guitar throughout.

I was first captivated by his wonderful lightness, almost weightlessness of touch in It Might As Well Be Spring. But he finds all kind of expressive possibilities and directions to take. And with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland he is in top-flight company.

Moon River it is all about the silences, the spaces in which to daydream and take one’s time.

Skylark and Wayne Shorter’s Footprints have been the singles which were released on streaming services in advance of today’s release, and both of those are stories with an African angle. In Skylark, the tune emerges from hi-life motifs, and Loueke has a similar way to Martial Solal of of relishing and circling round some favourite contours the tune. Footprints steps into the open from African polyrhythms and a guitar sound and technique which imitate the kora. We are in a place where disguise and surprise are the norm. Coltranes’s Naima, the album closer, is even more effectively disguised.

Solar, on the other hand, is a feverish trio work-out at a ‘you-can’t-be-serious’ tempo, with Eric Harland invited to play out an ending which feels like an elegant and stately denial that any of the ferocious mischief which has gone before it ever actually happened.

Blue Monk is a slow walk, where Reuben Rogers lords the time magnificently and empathetically, Loueke finds the dirtiest of blues licks and Eric Harland has something creative, individual and apposite yet out-of-the-ordinary to add at every moment.

The longest tune is the title track Close Your Eyes at nearly eight minutes, but everything flows so easily and naturally, the time passes far too quickly.

(*) To be pedantic this album is actually a re-release, in the same way that Hope was. That album had previously been part of high-end vinyl specialist Newvelle’s second season (Reviewed here), with Lionel Loueke in duo with pianist Kevin Hays, and subsequently released as a separate album on Edition Records.This new Sounderscore release is Loueke’s contribution to Newvelle’s Season Three, with this CD presentation adding three tracks to the eight which were on the original release. Sounderscore is run by Swedish/Italian New York-based bassist Massimo Biolcati.

Close Your Eyes is released on CD and across all the main digital platforms – e.g. Bandcamp – today, 22 October 2021

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