Trumpeter/composer Ibrahim Maalouf is proving to be one of the most versatile musicians on the current jazz/world music scene. His two album releases from 2015 were stunning, not just for their originality, but also for the fact that they were so different in style. “Kalthoum” was a wonderful acoustic jazz album, whilst “Red and Black Light” successfully mixed Arabesque folk and jazz with dance music. On this album, Maalouf further enhances his standing with a set of beautiful, haunting tunes, based around melodic riffs and motifs, largely performed on acoustic piano. The film from which the music is taken, by director Ounie Lacombe, is about a physiotherapist who unsuccessfully tried to find her biological mother. They then meet each other without even being aware of it, when the mother is admitted as a patient into the medical office where the unknown daughter works. I haven’t seen the film, so I am basing this review on the music as a stand-alone release.
There is a gentle, romantic feel to the entire album, one which shows great sensitivity from the composer. The themes within each piece of music often repeat throughout the set, with lyrical and melodic phrases beautifully performed on Maalouf’s piano and less prevalent trumpet. There’s a very subtle use of electronic percussion on some of the tracks, just giving a slight edge to the tunes when needed. Occasional strings drift effortlessly in and out, adding to the gently rolling landscapes of sound thoughtfully crafted by the composer. Perhaps akin to the piano music of Einaudi, the tunes presented here are quite beautiful in their simplicity. Nothing to set the heart racing, just well written and wonderfully performed in an honest, uncomplicated way. It’s all about the melody and a lovely lightness of touch. The majority of the tracks are short, anything between 30 seconds and a few minutes. Whilst one might argue that this is the nature of a film score, I do wonder if Maalouf might not have considered developing some of the tunes further for the release of this album. Many of the pieces are musical vignettes; the listener gets a taste of the melody, then the tune ends and we move into the next track. In some ways I do like this, the mood from one track to the next rarely changes so it does work as a whole, but it might have been nice if Maalouf had re-recorded, or used extended versions of some of the tunes, thereby adding more depth and involvement in the album as a stand-alone piece.
As a composer Ibrahim Maalouf has that rare gift of engaging the listener, regardless of the form or genre that the music takes. One can hear the key elements of his music within all of his different types of writing, his unique playing, feel and compositional style apparent through each of the recordings he has released. This album is the least adventurous of his recent releases, but it’s just as enjoyable nonetheless. It is after all a film score, so one would expect the music to reflect the nature of the film itself. It is however, an album I will undoubtedly return to time and time again, its purity and beauty a joy to behold.