Loba Akou — guitarist of the world
Interview, Part one
Interview, Part two
African Jazz Trio at the AQ, Thur. & Fri, Dec. 11 & 12, 2009
Loba Akou - g
Serge Akou - b
Stokely Williams - d
Review of show:
The African Jazz Trio did not disappoint. Serge Akou was rock solid on his cool-looking fretless bass — nothing fancy, just laying down a firm foundation and soloing with almost leisurely restraint. Stokley Williams seemed to be feeling out his bandmates and the music for a while, before he exploded into arrays of polyrhythms, jaw-dropping technical virtuosity, and brilliant fills behind Loba Akou's guitar.
And what a guitar player he was. I said to both Loba and Stokley during a break that the band was not really a trio: Loba with his acoustic folk guitar, electric jazz guitar, and electronic effects guitar a la Hendrix and Beck, was like a one man front line of three instruments. Sometimes he had two guitars strapped to his body, one on his back and one in his hand, allowing him to move back and forth quickly between them.
In most songs, he soloed on all three, and he became a different personality on each one.
With the folk guitar, to which he often hummed along, he soloed in a tight, circumscribed fashion that could be called "rural" if the word is understood positively. With the electric jazz guitar he was highly sophisticated and urbane, in the manner of the early Wes Montgomery. On the effects guitar the band became a power trio, with Loba providing sustain and reverb, the fingers of both hands dancing on the oh so sensitive strings.
There is not another like Loba. We need more recordings of him and this fine group.
Due to their being at the crossroads of many cultures, I find that Africans are often the most well-rounded and multi-faceted of all jazz musicians.
Frequently, they know something of the European music of the former colonial power. They know their own 'tribal music'. They are aware of the music of other African 'tribes' and countries. They are aware of the jazz tradition coming out of America. It makes for a unique and stirring brew.
Loba, not surprisingly, has studied Western classical guitar. He is familiar with many indigenous African musics. He loves Jimi Hendrix and other rock and blues guitarists. And he knows and loves the work of Django Reinhardt and Kenny Burrell. His is a unique sound, coming from a variety of angles.