Kevin Hays & Lionel Loueke – Hope – Newvelle Records NV008LP – 180 gm vinyl – ****1/2:

Another audiophile world tour from Newvelle Records…

(Kevin Hays – piano, vocals; Lionel Loueke – guitar, vocals)

As the latest LP issue in the subscription audiophile LP series of Newvelle Records, Hope, from the combined talents of pianist Kevin Hays, and guitarist, Lionel Loueke, demands both rapt attention and an open free mind to appreciate its wondrous audio delights. Kevin and Lionel communicate intuitively, both blending and taking lead seamlessly.

Lionel is from the Republic of Benin in West Africa, and his highly percussive guitar playing combines jazz and African rhythms in an intoxicating brew, that is enhanced by both native and wordless vocals- using his voice and tongue to simulate instrumental and beat effects. His presence clearly inspires Hays both on Lionel’s “world” compositions, as well as opening up the sonic landscape for Kevin on the tracks that the pianist wrote.

For audiophile fans the listening experience is flawless, truly remarkable for guitar and piano presence. The vibration of strings and piano key strike is “felt” and the blend of the two instruments is spot on, with each having their leads floating up and around each other like fireflies in an evening light show.

The opener, “Violeta” written for Chilean composer, Violeta Parra, is remarkable for its drum type vocal effects bringing to mind beat boxing techniques. Loueke uses every inch of his guitar, strings and body, to sell its vision. On the title track, a song of longing with ascending piano lines, the two musicians work together as a potter would use clay and water to form an elegant vase. It is a tender and moving piece.

Loueke’s “Aziza Dance” has piano and guitar darting in and out, expressing a tension that brings to mind two dueling Andalusian dancers. “Feuilles-O” is based on a traditional Haitian song telling the tale of a medicine man curing a child. It is sung in Creole by Hays, its melody somewhat familiar but still mysterious. Hays’ vocal talents are new to me, and very impressive.

“Milton” honors Milton Nascimento with its 5/4 rhythms and mouth percussion. Our world duo sonic tour continues with “Veuve Malienne,” a Malian cry for peace from a widow, mourning her husband killed in another needless war. It features native vocal percussion and perhaps the most exploratory interaction between the two artists.

Kevin’s “All I Have” concludes our travels with a vocal laden paean to the search for spiritual truth that often gets sidetracked by our commercially driven society.

As you can see from the titles and descriptions of compositions on this Newvelle audiophile issue, there is an ongoing presentation of well thought out world themes, largely jazz driven, exploring profound issues. It’s a blend of beauty and substance.


Side A:
Violetta, Hope
Aziza Dance

Side B: 
Veuve Malienne
All I Have

—Jeff Krow