Yosef Gutman Feat. Lionel Loueke – Soul Song (ENG review)

Street date February 19th 2024
Yosef Gutman

It is impossible to know all jazz artists, as there are so many that we would have to travel the oceans day and night to meet them all. This intimate and delicate project is like a delicious liqueur at the end of a meal. Once upon a time… There was a bassist born in South Africa, Yosef-Gutman Levitt, who undertook a journey to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music. He met several music enthusiasts there. One of them was a guitarist from the West African nation of Benin, who had come to Berklee from Paris. His name was Lionel Loueke. After moving to New York, the two continued their musical connection with a weekly concert in Brooklyn. And it is true that this cohesion and love for beauty are perfectly translated in this album.
For the listeners of Bayou Blue Radio, Lionel Loueke is far from unknown. Always involved in daring projects, it is interesting to see him collaborate with very different artists. Here, “Soul Song” serves as a pretext for a dialogue between a bassist and a guitarist. There is something aquatic in this music, along with notions of space. Loueke has become one of the most sought-after musicians of his time, signing with Blue Note and joining groups such as Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock, among others. Levitt left the music industry, got married, started a family, achieved success as a tech entrepreneur, and moved to Jerusalem in 2009 after a spiritual rebirth. In 2018, he returned to music and began refining his distinctive voice on the five-string acoustic bass, which can be heard with great effect on his first trio album, Upside Down Mountain.
To succeed in such an album, you need a team of artists working in harmony. That’s why we find pianist Omri Mor and drummer Ofri Nehemya. There is likely a bit of the musicians’ personal history in this story, a desire to share a musical experience that, in some ways, seems almost spiritual. It forces the attentive listener to recognize places and landscapes, and everything is done to guide us through the tracks. In fact, it seems that on this album, Lionel Loueke goes much further in the search for sounds and musical composition than in his own projects. This is certainly not just an intuition. How many times in my life have I witnessed this alchemy that, involving various musicians, creates a mountain and pushes each of them further? We can witness this phenomenon on this album.
The album features mystical melodies without lyrics, smoothly flowing in a monophonic manner, derived from the Hasidic Jewish tradition. Levitt has explored this repertoire in his albums as a duo with New York guitarist Tal Yahalom (Tsuf Harim and Tal Yasis), as well as in previous releases with his group. The nigunim heard on Soul Song are “Torah Tsiva,” “Myriad,” and “Kave El Hashem.” “The meaning imbued in these nigunim is very clear—it’s like a jackhammer of meaning,” explains Levitt, which largely explains Loueke’s beautifully intuitive response to the material. In a rudimentary way, he understands it all. Levitt seeks to create what he calls a “new garment” for these Hasidic chants. By unleashing his fertile musical imagination, he manages to preserve the stylistic essence of the nigunim while creating a sound that is uniquely his own.
This album is filled with fascinations and accomplished sonic experiences, a marvelous gift that is essential for Art enthusiasts with a capital A! Let’s not search for grand effects here; let us appreciate this album with complete intelligence….

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, February 11th 2024


To Buy this album

Yosef Gutman’s website

Lionel Loueke’s website


Tracking list:

1) Chai Elul. 04:14.

2) Soul Song. 07:04.

3) Myriad. 04:56.

4) Song Of The Sea. 03:40.

5) The Tender Eyes of Leah. 04:40.

6) Amud Anan – Pillar Of Cloud (Duet Version) 03:06.

7) Torah Tsiva. 05:06.

8) Kave El Hashem – Hope. 04:36.

Produced and Arranged by Gilad Ronen
Executive Produced by Yosef Gutman Levitt
Recorded in Jerusalem Israel.
Mixed and Mastered by Lars Nilsson @ Nilento Studio, Sweden
All original music written by Yosef-Gutman Levitt and Gilad Ronen Traditional Nigunim arrangements by Gilad Ronen
Album artwork by Yosef-Gutman Levitt
Lionel Loueke appears courtesy of Edition Records