Longtime Herbie Hancock sideman Lionel Loueke pays tribute to his employer and mentor on HH (Edition Records), his collection of solo guitar interpretations of classic Hancock tunes. Playing primarily a seven-string solo acoustic guitar with a low B string and minimal effects, the Benin-born Loueke re-imagines “Butterfly” as a 6/8 number, singing the haunting wordless melody while incorporating the vocal clicks of the South African Xhosa language. He renders “Actual Proof” in 13/8 while weaving an object between the strings for percussive effect. And he shows a classical guitar influence on interpretations of the delicate “Dolphin Dance” and “Speak Like a Child,” the latter featuring a cameo appearance at the end from his infant daughter Camille. There are also fairly straightforward readings of “Hang Up Your Hangups” and the slow-grooving “Cantaloupe Island,” the latter played on electric guitar with a touch of wah-wah.
In recreating Hancock’s “Rockit,” Hancock’s 1983 hit song from the Bill Laswell-produced album Future Shock, Loueke relies on electric guitars, loops and overdubbed layers of guitar. For “Watermelon Man,” he brings his patented percussive approach to the fore, along with more Xhosa click singing and subtle looping of harmonics. His version of the uptempo swinger “One Finger Snap” is a frantic, experimental romp with distortion and harmonizer on full-blast, with loops creating a kinetic undercurrent. And on “Come Running to Me” (a vocoder tune from 1978’s Sunlight) Loueke sings in his native Fon, the official language of the West African nation.
“The challenge was to put my own imprint on these masterpieces, to rethink them with my touch on it,” said the guitarist, who currently resides in Luxembourg. “We all know the originals were powerful and beautiful, so my idea was not to make anything better or worse, just to present some of those beautiful tunes that I played so many times with Herbie but to make them my own. And I really tried to keep the very organic part of my playing on the record, so I didn’t want to make a huge, involved arrangements. Even when I overdubbed on a few tunes, it was 80 percent completely improvisation, and I always kept the first take.”
Loueke has been been a member of Hancock’s band for the last 15 years and has appeared on 2010’s The Imagine Project, 2007’s River: The Joni Letters and 2005’s Possibilities. Before being recruited by Hancock, he played in Terence Blanchard’s band and appeared on the trumpeter’s Bounce in 2003 and Flow in 2005. He has recorded 14 albums as a leader for the Obliqsound and Blue Note labels. HH, his second for Edition, is easily his most intimate, personal and daring yet.
Dave Stryker hit the motherlode in recent years with his hip, jazzy recreations of ‘70s R&B radio classics on 2014’s Eight Track, 2016’s Eight Track II and 2019’s Eight Track III. On his latest incarnation for his Strikezone label, the veteran guitarist pursues that proven formula with the WDR Big Band, conducted and arranged by Bob Mintzer, on Blue Soul. From his blues-drenched take on Marvin Gaye’s 1972 hit, “Trouble Man,” buoyed by a brace of horns punctuating the proceedings, to Mintzer’s clever 3/4 arrangement of Gaye’s 1971 anthem, “What’s Going On,” Stryker delivers the goods.
[caption id="attachment_33899" align="alignleft" width="1200"] Dave Stryker (Photo courtesy the artist)[/caption]
Credit WDR organist Billy Test with providing a soul-jazz cushion beneath the guitarist’s warm, Pat Martino-inspired flights on both songs. Other highlights here include a lightly swinging, waltz-time arrangement of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” and two groovers — Stanley Turrentine’s “Stan’s Shuffle,” a salute to one of Stryker’s early employers from the ‘80s, and Stryker’s “Blues Strut,” his shuffle-swing answer to Benny Golson’s “Blues March,” both featuring tenor solos by Mintzer.
Guitarist Tom Guarna is an accomplished six-stringer who doesn’t shy away from the ‘fusion’ label or the desire to stomp on his distortion box or wield a guitar synth. Spirit Science (Destiny Records) has him showcasing his considerable chops, modernist sonics and an open-minded attitude alongside tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel, keyboardist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Justin Faulkner. All the compositions on this ambitious outing were inspired by sacred geometry and a few — “Platonic Solids,” “Two Circles” and “The Genesis Pattern” — recall the misterioso angularity and kinetic force of Wayne Shorter’s “Adventures Aboard the Golden Mean.”
[caption id="attachment_33900" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Tom Guarna (Photo courtesy the artist)[/caption]
The title track is a soothing alternative, played on acoustic steel string guitar, while on the peaceful “A Reflection in a Reflection (for Kofi Burbridge)” he blends guitar synth colors and Wendel’s bassoon to striking effect. And for sheer fuzoid chops, it doesn’t get any more commanding than “The Trion Re” and “Metatron’s Cube.” The unhurried waltz, “Lullaby for Lena,” an ode to his rescue dog, is a lovely way to close out this imposing lickfest.
New Orleans native Davy Mooney, currently an assistant professor of jazz guitar studies at the University of North Texas, brings a warm tone, impeccable lines and a contemporary aesthetic to his compositions on Live at National Sawdust (Sunnyside) with his Hope of Home Band featuring pianist Jon Cowherd, saxophonist John Ellis, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Brian Blade. Recorded before the pandemic in January 2020, it’s the third outing by this collective of kindred spirits and Mooney’s seventh overall.
Patient, lyrical offerings like the gorgeous “Moon Song,” the wistful waltz “Angela’s Sad Song” and the delicate “Zona Leste” (based on a popular Chinese folk song) reveal the guitarist’s more romantic, introspective side while brisk numbers like “Wrinkles,” “Kid Flash” and “Milly’s Song” find him more aligned with a post-bop sensibility in the tight unisons, challenging heads and propensity to swing. The leader’s Pat Martino-influenced streams of notes on his 7-string guitar come to the fore on the blues-tinged blowing vehicle, “Prospectin’,” the lone tune involving some boppish trading of eights between Mooney, Ellis and drummer Blade. Adventurous, soulful writing and superb playing by a stellar ensemble.
Photo courtesy of Edition Records