Lionel Loueke's third album Heritage, co-produced by piano great and Blue Note label mate Robert Glasper, finds him at the helm of a new lineup with a more electric sound. Long known for his nylon-string acoustic guitar, Loueke does not feature that instrument on Heritage. He transitions to steel-string acoustic and electric guitars, joining Glasper, electric bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Mark Guiliana to create music full of churning grooves and high-intensity improvisation. Still, Loueke's gentleness, his gift for poetic melody, remains in the forefront.
Heritage begins with the mesmerizing harmonized Yoruba vocals of "Ifê," meaning "love." The muted, percussive guitar in the opening, and the electronic effects heard frequently throughout the album, remind us that Loueke has long embraced technology and unorthodox timbres, even as he's emphasized a largely acoustic sound.
In addition to co-producing, Glasper plays piano and Fender Rhodes and contributes two compositions of his own: "Tribal Dance" and "Bayyinah" (he shares credit with Lionel on "Hope"), written for a departed family member. "Robert is a true genius," says Loueke, "and I knew that he'd be the right person. I like a musician who surprises me all the time. We're good friends and we're both open, and that's when the magic happens." Loueke has performed as a special guest with the Robert Glasper Trio, and was in fact an original member of the Robert Glasper Experiment when it first formed.