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Raul Midon and Lionel Loueke join forces for 'Kuumbwa Jazz Center' and 'Freight & Salvage' / The Mercury News

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Raul Midón first met Lionel Loueke when the Benin-born guitarist/vocalist was a member of trumpeter Terence Blanchard's band, which was working on the score of Spike Lee's 2004 film "She Hate Me." Midón was a rapidly rising star hired to write and perform the movie's theme song, "Adam n' Eve n' Eve," a piece that captured Lee's tangle of sexual politics.

Midón, a singular vocalist and guitarist, recognized a kindred spirit in Loueke, and that initial encounter planted a seed that got further nourishment the next year when Midón joined Herbie Hancock in the studio to record Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" for the pianist's album "Possibilities" (Vector/Hear Music).

By that point, Loueke had joined Hancock's band, and he's been touring and recording with the trailblazing pianist, keyboardist and composer ever since. But he's taking the down time from Hancock's band to launch a new collaboration with Midón, a freshly minted duo that performs Monday at Santa Cruz's Kuumbwa Jazz Center and Wednesday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage (they also give a master class at the California Jazz Conservatory on Tuesday evening).

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