United States Artists (USA), the national grant-making and advocacy organization, has named guitarist Lionel Loueke the recipient of a 2009 USA Fellowship. The recipients were announced last night at a ceremony in Los Angeles at which Loueke performed. The USA Fellows program annually awards fifty unrestricted grants of $50,000 to artists of all disciplines who are chosen for the caliber and impact of their work. They include contemporary experimenters and traditional practitioners in the areas of Architecture and Design, Crafts and Traditional Arts, Dance, Literature, Media, Music, Theater Arts, and Visual Arts. For more information, visit www.unitedstatesartists.org.
Loueke has also revealed the cover artwork for Mwaliko, his sophomore album for Blue Note Records which will be released on February 9, 2010. Mwaliko (pronounced mwah-LEE-koh) is Swahili for “invitation,” and the album comprises a series of searching, innovative, intimate duets with special guests vocalist Angelique Kidjo, vocalist/bassist Esperanza Spalding, vocalist/bassist Richard Bona and drummer Marcus Gilmore, as well as three new tracks featuring his longtime trio with Massimo Biolcati on bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums.
Originally from the small West African nation of Benin, Loueke has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past several years. Praised by his mentor Herbie Hancock as “a musical painter,” he has appeared on numerous standout recordings such as Hancock’s Grammy-winning River: The Joni Letters (2008) and Terence Blanchard’s Grammy-nominated Flow (2005). Loueke’s 2007 Blue Note debut, Karibu, established him as a one of the brightest new stars on the scene, and prompted The New York Times to declare him “a startlingly original voice” and “one of the most striking jazz artists to emerge is some time.”