Lionel Loueke picked up the guitar late at age 17. After his initial to exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the National Institute of Art in Ivory Coast. In 1994 he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris then came to the U.S. on a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music where he first encountered his future trio mates Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth. After graduating Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute where he was able to study with his most significant mentors: Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.
Praised by Hancock as "a musical painter," Loueke combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. His Blue Note debut Karibu (2008) featured guest appearances from Hancock and Shorter with his trio and was met with wide acclaim. Mwaliko (2010) offered a series of intimate duets with Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Esperanza Spalding and Marcus Gilmore. Heritage (2012) was co-produced by label mate Robert Glasper and found Loueke exploring a more electric sound with a new trio featuring Derrick Hodge on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums. His latest CD GAIA was recorded live in the studio with Bassist Massimo Biolcati & Drummer Ferenc Nemeth and produced by Blue Note President & Grammy winning producer Don Was.
In addition to albums with his collective trio Gilfema with Biolcati and Nemeth, Loueke has appeared on recordings by Hancock, Blanchard, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Joe Lovano, as well as contemporaries including Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick Scott and others. He continues to tour the world with his own trio as well as with Hancock and is a member of Blue Note's 75th anniversary all-star band with Glasper, Hodge, Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire and Marcus Strickland.