Reflections on VI Gnin
Having embraced a more aggressive electric sound on such Blue Note albums as Gaïa and Heritage, Beninese singer/guitarist Lionel Loueke takes a subdued and intimate turn on The Journey, harking back to the tender melodies and explicit West African influences of his earlier work. The sonic palette is no less imaginative, however; the songs, in their sparse and atmospheric flavor, center around the affecting spiritual cry of Loueke’s vocals, the springy rhythmic attack of his nylon-string guitar, and the ethereal, signal-processed aura of his electric. Producer Robert Sadin ushers in a cast of collaborators including bassist Pino Palladino, percussionists Cyro Baptista and Christi Joza Orisha, classical clarinetist Patrick Messina, improvising violinist Mark Feldman, and traditional peul flutist Dramane Dembélé in a continuously shifting lineup. There’s also a social undercurrent, particularly on “Vi Gnin” (“My Child”), concerning war and displacement—a timely acknowledgement that art can speak to the ills that threaten many around the globe.