Everything has been hurled into Maalouf’s transglobal melting pot.
Martin Longley 2012
The Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf sometimes performs completely solo, but this album explores the epic side of his compositional output. Even though this might be the case, much of the recording involves the layering of his multi-instrumental prowess. Besides employing a four-valve horn variant, this adopted Frenchman has built up these pieces with piano, percussion and electronics, as well as inviting occasional guests to add guitar, violin, tuba, accordion and harmonica.
Everything has been hurled into the transglobal pot, and the results are stylistically unbound. The main characteristic of this hour-plus work is an oscillation between ruminative calm and torrid marching. Maalouf opens with some thoughtful piano, with Lily merging into Will Soon Be a Woman, which inhabits the realms of an imaginary French movie soundtrack. Café serenading melds with gentle gypsy, the powdery softness of Maalouf’s tone dominating the foreground. It’s similar to the romantically tinkering world inhabited by Yann Tiersen.
Maalouf roves from France through Eastern Europe to the Middle East; or maybe he’s moving in the opposite direction. Each piece is dedicated to a member of his family, and the final tune is dedicated to the Lebanese family at large. As the third and fourth pieces develop, there are already frissons from the Andes and the Bronxian salsa tenements, overlaying a We Will Rock You drum-crash. Everything or Nothing invokes another filmic master, this time sounding akin to the epic work of Goran Bregović: crashing war-drums, massed choirs, cutting to just trumpet and piano.
There’s even more mashing to come. Never Serious is Balkan Led Zep, whilst Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Care About Us theme is used on We’ll Always Care About You, the result like a Balkan Slayer interpretation. The two extended pieces arrive towards the close, All the Beautiful Things featuring prominent Chinese erhu (two-stringed fiddle), and Beirut is also tranquil and spacious, the closest piece to a jazz ballad; throughout, the dispersed elements just about manage to cohere. Maalouf’s trumpet always has an Arabic tinge, but it’s as if he wants it to be a softer flugelhorn, as if Jon Hassell were meeting Kenny Wheeler.