Afropop/jazz-fusion record is hit-and-miss
West African guitarist Lionel Loueke’s Blue Note debut is a challenging and occasionally wondrous fusion of Afropop and knotty, dissonant jazz. Loueke has been an integral part of recent releases from trumpeter Roy Hargrove and legendary pianist Herbie Hancock (that’s him on Herbie’s recent Grammy winner/Joni Mitchell tribute River: The Joni Letters), and here Hancock and fellow Miles alum Wayne Shorter return the favor, playing on three of Karibu’s nine tracks. Those tracks are the highlights, since Loueke’s regular trio—featuring bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth—fails to overcome Eli Wolf’s safe fuzak production. Loueke’s a major talent, incorporating scatting vocalizations and tongue clicks to accompany his fluid acoustic-guitar runs, but the music doesn’t really take flight until Hancock and Shorter drop in. Shorter’s soprano sax solo on John Coltrane’s “Naima” is feathery light and endlessly inventive, while the interplay between Hancock and Shorter on “Light Dark” recalls some of the dissonant push and pull of late-’60s Miles classics such as Nefertiti and Sorcerer.