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Ibrahim Maalouf: Illusions
French trumpeter of Lebanese origin, Ibrahim Maalouf, hails from a largely intellectual family, who fled Lebanon to Paris in the midst of the Lebanese civil war. Growing up in the Parisians suburbs, Ibrahim was to follow in the footsteps of his father, notable trumpeter Nassim Maalouf, and was handed the instrument at 7 years of age.
Throughout his childhood, Ibrahim was exposed him to a repertoire of musical genres including classical, jazz and the traditional Arabic Maqam music. Under such expert guidance, he quickly established a solid foundation that made it possible for him to perform on piccolo trumpet alongside his father as part of a duo. Playing around the world, by the age of 15, Ibrahim had reached the technical proficiency to perform Bach's 2nd Brandenburg Bach concerto. Encouraged by his father's teacher, Maurice Andre, he left his scientific studies to embrace playing the trumpet full time, enrolling in conservatories in Paris, winning competitions and embarking on a professional career.
Ibrahim has collaborated and toured with countless notable artists, among them, French singer Vincent Delerm, Georges Moustaki and Sting. He has also played as a soloist in classical settings and composed for an orchestra.
In his fifth album to date, Illusions, the tracks are laden with jazz, funk and rock passages, along with the incorporation of microtonal Arabic melodies. There are instances where the music ventures into free, unclassifiable bouts, such as the midsection of 'Busy', where everything collapses into harmonic chaos before returning to its mellow nature.
Though possessing a wide tonal flexibility, Ibrahim predominantly plays with a round, sweet and dark tone throughout the album, reflecting his classical upbringing. His tonal artistry particularly shines on the crowd pleaser 'InPRESSI', which features a colourful contrast between dreamy melodic playing and the bellowing trumpet section in the background. The same effect can be heard in 'Unfaithful'.
Ibrahim Maalouf's Illusions is another of his albums which is accessible to commercial audiences whilst maintaining an air of sophistication and class. His compositions border along the lines of being complex and catchy, whilst skilfully incorporating Oriental melodies into a predominantly western backdrop.
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.