Ibrahim Maalouf ‘Wind’ (Mi’ster) 5/5

ibrahim-maaloufLebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf has quietly established a reputation as a highly creative musician who is capable of successfully fusing tastefully carved out electronica and drum beats with improvised jazz and in this respect alone bears comparison with Niels Peter Molvaer. His previous release, the excellent ‘Diagnostic’, from 2011 illustrated this point perfectly, though where the comparison differs is in Maalouf’s desire to bring a distinctive Arabic flavour to proceedings. However, with this new all acoustic project he may just have recorded the album that will catapult his music to a vastly wider audience. It certainly deserves to attract international attention. No less than the French Cinémathèque in Paris, where Maalouf is resident, commissioned the musician to compose music for a silent film project. The fruits of this collaborative enterprise reside within this new album. Parallels immediately spring to mind with the seminal Miles Davis collaboration with French director Louis Malle on ‘Lift to the Scaffold’ and this new recording stands comparison remarkably well. Indeed Maaalouf wanted to use the framework of the acoustic quintet formation, just as Miles did, but in addition the former has brought his own cultural capital on board. Enlisting the support of New York’s finest musicians including bassist Larry Grenadier, saxophonist Mark Turner and drummer Clarence Penn and recorded in the Big Apple, this album makes for compelling listening from start to finish. The atmospheric ‘Waiting’ sets the scene while the quintet have plenty of opportunity to really stretch out on the uplifting ‘Questions and Answers’ (not the Pat Metheny composition of the same name) and the driving piece that is ‘Certainty’. Perhaps it is on the mid-paced numbers such as ‘Suspicions’ that the quintet sound most convincing of all and the ensemble playing is of the highest order with fine comping from pianist Frank Woeste. Lavishly packaged in a box with striking artwork from Manuel Baena Joux and with incisive bi-lingual sleeve notes on the project, this album is unquestionably Ibrahim Maalouf’s finest achievement to date and one that could prove to be a watershed in his already productive career thus far.

Tim Stenhouse