Hope is the mesmerising and joyous debut album from pianist Kevin Hays and guitarist Lionel Loueke. Originally released on Vinyl only in 2017 on the French label Newvelle Records, this release on Edition brings a new lease of life for the album, now beautifully remastered with the inclusion of a three additional tracks.
For more than two decades Kevin and Lionel have been at the forefront of musical creativity in the global Jazz scene, numbered amoung the most influential musicians of their generation. They’ve released numerous albums with some of the greatest and most respected musicians in the business. As individuals they share an unequivocal talent for expression, a unique voice with an ability to create something magical. Their brilliance is endless and their creative spirit an inspiration. It’s clear that there was a palpable sense of joy in the studio for the two days it took to record the album. Kevin Hays says: “Sometimes we would look at each other during a playback and just laugh at the remarkable synchronicity we were hearing. It’s something you can’t plan out. It’s either there or it isn’t.”
“I think something that is unique about the album is that it’s purely an acoustic guitar/piano record. At our first rehearsal, Lionel just played acoustic guitar and we both noted how great it sounded with the piano so we decided that would be the sound of the record.”
The music, written by both Hays and Loueke, who recently worked together on Jeff Ballard’s Fairgrounds project, moves elegantly between the rhythmic interplay and improvisatory flourishes of Violetta, the melodic joy and melancholy of Hope, whilst the intensely original and idiosyncratic West African rhythms of Aziza Dance demonstrates its warm and deeply emotive spirit.
And what does Hope have to say to us? Kevin muses: “I’m not sure about any major statements or agendas I personally am putting forth with this music except that it is happening at this time, in this troubled world in which we live. And music for me is mostly about peacemaking by its very nature. I do sort of marvel at the universality of music. How deep the roots go that connect us all. I think that may come out in the music you hear on this recording.”
Not only are both musicians world-class instrumentalists who demonstrate the deep expression of the master on their instrument, but they share a vocal talent that contributes a vital part of this album. Kevin continues “I think that the voice element is also important. Lionel always has a microphone in front of him when he performs and for good reason. The rhythms and melodies he sings are such a part of his musical ethos and I also feel a great connection to singing and vocalizing with my music (with and without words). The voice is elemental to being human as it’s the first instrument used upon our birth!”.
Two minds – two souls as one. Hope is a masterclass in the art of collaboration, in playing in a duo, in sharing deep respect and love for each other’s playing. Hope is two boundless and creative artists who emanate a palpable sense of joy in playing together.
A heartfelt and unpretentious statement by two artists who do not ignore their own cultural roots but seek ways to connect them to other experiences or to find common threads. ★★★★
– Alain Drouot, Downbeat
A duo collaboration of rare intuitive accord.
– Nate Chinen, WBGO
A blend of beauty and substance ★★★★½
– Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition
Hope is an elegant album from two masters with ambitious aims and the talent to convey their message in sublimely stylized manner. ★★★★
– Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz
An album by two songwriters of preternatural abilities.
– Raul da Gama, JazzdaGama