Ibrahim Maalouf ‘Red and Black Light’ (Mi’ster Productions) 4/5

ibrahim-maaloufLebanese born musician Ibrahim Maalouf was raised in Paris. His distinctive sound comes partly from the many world music influences that permeate into his composing and playing, but also from a very personal standpoint, it being his father who invented the micro-tonal four valve trumpet that he plays. His jazz roots tend to form the platform for most of his music, whereupon the highly talented Maalouf then injects traditional themes and practically reinvents the meaning of cross genre music with a free-spirited approach that links his compositions from Arabic quarter tones to Modernistic minuets. “Red and Black Light” is released alongside Maalouf’s other excellent album “Kalthoum”. Whilst the latter focuses more on the jazz idiom, it is “Red and Black Light” that is perhaps the quirkier of the two releases, with its highly imaginative fusion of jazz, folk, dance and electro-pop elements. The riffs and repeating motifs throughout the recording are performed in style by Francois Delporte on guitar, Eric Legnini on keyboards and Stephane Galland on drums. Maalouf himself adds keys to his playing also, and the resulting mix is a lively, trance-like festival of music.
Maalouf is undoubtedly a prolific performer, having worked with not only the finest musicians in jazz, but also in differing fields of music. It is perhaps this openness from the trumpeter that allows him to be so comfortable merging together so many different influences and styles. The suitably titled opening track “Free Spirit” kicks things off with its Arabic themes, before morphing into a late night Ibiza anthem. And this is generally the course that the albums takes, tune after tune of spellbinding imagery and ear-arousing, foot tapping, dark and light combinations of thoughtful soundscapes and hi-octane energy. Maalouf breathes life into these tunes and his band are on fire – burning up the music with skill and delight. “Goodnight Kiss” is a stunning composition, with its nursery rhyme-esque beginning leading into a funked up groove that Weather Report would have been proud of. Subtle changes take place before the tune builds into a wall of crashing sound, bright and brilliant in its folksy, jazzy, trippy originality. Whilst there’s a definite clubby feel to this album, there are so many subtleties and clever reflective nuances going on throughout, one just has to marvel at both the writing and the performances. “Improbable” has an edginess to it that makes it stand out as one of the album’s most enjoyable pieces, personifying exactly what this session is all about. An oddly engaging hybrid mix of Chick Corea, Headhunters and Lord of the Dance. And that just about sums up the diverse nature of this recording. It’s intriguing and it leaves this listener wanting more. Fabulous music from an incredibly gifted musician.

Mike Gates