By Robert Ham | Published October 2019
Of the vast swathes of material that subscription vinyl imprint Newvelle has released over the years, Hope, a 2017 collaboration between guitarist Lionel Loueke and pianist Kevin Hays, stood out as an album that could have benefited from wider distribution and one that had the best chance of capturing a bigger audience. The duets—acoustic ambles that made great use of Loueke’s percussive vocal touches and the duo’s graceful interplay—felt inviting and warm, beckoning all within earshot to come closer and bathe in its glow. That comforting sensation now is getting its full due, thanks to Edition’s reissue, complete with remastered audio and some welcome extra tracks tacked on.
The sensation of listening to the album is well reflected in its underwater album art, depicting a whale accompanied by a small group of dolphins. The 11 tracks evoke the weightless drift of the ocean, punctuated by moments of splashy playfulness. Bouncier tunes like “Aziza” and “Veuve Malienne” push Loueke’s Xhosa-inspired scatting to the fore, his ebullience egged on by Hays’ flickering solos. The experience of listening to it is excitable, making the control that both performers exhibit in not letting volume or tempo get away from them even more remarkable.
The power of Hope, though, is provided by the ballads. They’re gorgeous, maze-like tunes that are easy to get lost in. And they open up each player to their most expressive moments. Loueke’s baleful vocals and wandering solo on “Feuilles-O” and Hays’ fragile playing on “All I Have” seem to emanate from somewhere deep within, where their inmost aches reside and echo through each musician’s soul.
Hope: Violeta; Hope; Aziza Dance; Feuilles-O; Milton; Twins; Veuve Malienne; All I Have; Ghana Boy; Loving You; Sweet Caroline. (54:35)
Personnel: Kevin Hays, piano, vocals; Lionel Loueke, guitar, vocals.