Lionel spills the beans in this interview: struggling through obstacles in his native Benin (in West Africa) through his early journey… and the tenacity and belief he had in himself, to overcome them. The intuitive decisions he made which led him through multiple serendipitous events – and how each one contributed to his success. Getting signed to Blue Note, stories about playing with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Sting & Terrance Blanchard… learning how to speak English (REALLY funny stories!), moving from Benin to Ivory Coast, Paris, & New York, and the culture shock of some of these moves… why his standards of performance are so high, dealing with divorce, leaving his family and friends in a close-knit culture, his latest record “HH” and why it wasn’t easy recording Herbie Hancock’s songs even though he’s played with Herbie for years, learning to find the light in dark situations, cassette tapes, not lying, cooking, learning not to react and so much more. INCREDIBLY cool vibes, very soulful and deep cat
Lionel picked up the guitar at age 17. He was picked as top Rising Star guitarist in DownBeat magazine’s annual Critics Poll in both 2008 & 2009 and has more than eclipsed this accolade – having toured the world as Herbie Hancock’s guitarist since 2006. He is equally adept at acoustic or electric, and you’ll find influences of African music, modern and improvisational jazz in his playing. Lionel has released 9 solo LPs and has done collaborations and been a sideman on dozens of others, working with artists including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Richard Bona, Marcus Gilmore, Terence Blanchard, Jack DeJohnette, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Kenny Barron, Wynton Marsalis, Brian Blade, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dennis Chambers, Marcus Miller, Roy Hargrove, John Patitucci, Dianne Reeves, Sting, Nate Smith & many others.