Kavita Shah & Lionel Loueke
“Kavita is a musician's singer. She thinks like an instrumentalist, always taking risks and searching for new levels of understanding. Her music defies categorization; she has a truly unique vision shaped by her influences from New York to Brazil to India and beyond.” - Steve Wilson, jazz saxophonist.
Lionel Loueke has been acclaimed as “a gentle virtuoso” – Jon Pareles of The New York Times and “a musical painter” by Herbie Hancock
Kavita Shah, a visionary young singer who incorporates elements of Indian, Brazilian, and Malian music into her jazz-based repertoire, is joined by Benin-born jazz guitarist/vocalist (and producer of her upcoming album), Lionel Loueke.
Hailed by Downbeat Magazine as the "Best Graduate Jazz Vocalist" (2012) and winner of an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award (2013), Kavita Shah is a native New Yorker of Indian origin fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Her debut CD "Visions"–produced by Benin-born jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke–combines the sounds of the traditional Indian tablas and West African kora with those of a jazz quintet. "Visions," which includes special guests Loueke (guitar, vocals), Steve Wilson (saxophone, flute), and Rogerio Boccato (percussion), will be released in early 2014.
Ms. Shah grew up in Manhattan, studying classical piano from age 5 and performing regularly at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center from age 10 as a member of the award-winning Young People's Chorus of NYC. She was a semifinalist in the 2011 Voicingers International Jazz Competition held in Zory, Poland, and she has since performed as a leader in France, Belgium, and Germany. She plays frequently in the New York metro area at such venues as Cornelia Street Café, Bar Next Door, 55 Bar, Shapeshifter Lab, Minton's Playhouse, NuBlu, Nuyorican Poets Café, University Club, Harvard Club, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and in greater New England at the Vermont Jazz Center. Ms. Shah has had the pleasure of collaborating with Sheila Jordan, Peter Eldridge, Steve Wilson, Lionel Loueke, Linda Oh, Gilad Hekselman, Rogerio Boccato, Pierre de Bethmann, Yacouba Sissoko, Stephen Cellucci, and Samir Chatterjee, among others.
In addition to the "Visions" project, Ms. Shah leads the Brazil Trio, a jazz quintet, and the 3rd World Orquestra, a 13-piece ensemble with tabla, kora, rhythm section, and strings. She regularly works with contemporary composers and has premiered over 12 works in ensembles ranging from chamber groups to big band to jazz philharmonic. She is a member of the Steve Newcomb Orchestra ("Caterpillar Chronicles," Listen/Hear Collective 2012), and is the lead voice for tabla virtuoso Samir Chatterjee's project "Rabi Thakur."
Ms. Shah received her Master's in Jazz Voice from Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge, Steve Wilson, and Jim McNeely. She holds a B.A. from Harvard College in Latin American Studies, where she was the recipient of the Cultural Agents Thesis Prize and the Kenneth D. Maxwell Prize in Brazilian Studies for her ethnomusicology research on contemporary Afro-Brazilian music and politics.
Starting out on vocals and percussion, Lionel Loueke picked up the guitar late, at age 17. After his initial to exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the National Institute of Art in nearby Ivory Coast. In 1994 he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris, then came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Berklee. From there, Loueke gained acceptance to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he encountered his Gilfema bandmates Biolcati, Nemeth, Parlato and other musicians with whom he would form lasting creative relationships.
Praised by his mentor Herbie Hancock as “a musical painter,” Loueke combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. His previous Blue Note release, Mwaliko, offered a series of searching, intimate duets with Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Esperanza Spalding and Marcus Gilmore — artists and allies who continue to have a profound impact on Loueke’s vision as a bandleader.
In addition to Karibu and three previous albums with Gilfema (Gilfema, Virgin Forest, Gilfema + 2), Loueke has appeared on Terence Blanchard’s Grammy-nominated Flow (2005) and Hancock’s Grammy-winning River: The Joni Letters (2008). He has also toured the world as a member of Hancock’s band and appeared on recordings by such legends as Jack DeJohnette (Sound Travels), Charlie Haden (Land of the Sun), Kenny Barron (The Traveler) and Gonzalo Rubalcaba (XXI Century). He has also recorded with Esperanza Spalding (Radio Music Society), Gretchen Parlato (In a Dream), Avishai Cohen (After the Big Rain), Kendrick Scott (Source) and other leading peers.