Review by J Hunter
If you need a reason to check Nippertown’s event calendar “Today’s Tips” every day, here’s one: No matter how well you think you’ve done your homework, you never know what you might have missed. For instance, I didn’t know guitarist Lionel Loueke was playing a show at Williams College last Friday until the morning of the show, when I happened to check that day’s breakdown of entertainment options. I’d seen Loueke twice as a sideman with Terence Blanchard (the last at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, less than two weeks after Katrina flattened Blanchard’s hometown), but quite a lot has happened since then. Between Loueke’s own recordings and his appearances with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, the lanky native of Benin has carved a pretty good career path of his own.
Loueke’s five-tune, 75-minutes-plus set came entirely from his third Blue Note release Heritage, and in venerable Chapin Hall, the music sounded heavenly. Chapin was the first home of the late, lamented Williamstown Jazz Festival, and is also where Williams College’s Artist in Residence & Director of Jazz Activities Andrew Jaffe has been holding court for nearly 25 years. As it turned out, the Williams Jazz Ensemble show that preceded Loueke’s set would be Jaffe’s last: Department Chair Tony Sheppard came onstage at the end of the ensemble’s performance to announce that Andy was stepping down after this semester, although he would still be teaching (and breaking in his successor) for the next few years. Then, in stages, Sheppard asked past students, patrons of Williamstown Jazz, and other friends of the program to stand up and be counted. By the time he was done, nobody was sitting down, and we all gave Jaffe the ovation he so richly deserved.