Saturday, January 5, 2013

In review--Elemental Music

Ibrahim Maalouf
Harmonia Mundi

The first thing you notice about trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf’s Wind is the packaging.  You’ll find the CD housed in a lacquered box with gray and brown tones emphasized.  When you open the box you find a booklet, not featuring much in the way of biographical notes, but the single titles of songs posted against the backdrop of abstract paintings by Jeanlou Joux.  The song titles too would give the impression that the music would lack passion or lean towards drab concrete gray--Doubts, Suspicions and Issues.

So a listener will feel greatly surprised that this “mood” music performed by Maalouf’s quintet echoes Miles Davis while also reflecting on how music shapes scenes in cinema.  Yes, this effort could be seen as arty or even philosophical despite the fact that Wind represents an instrumental album and the only words in sight are the song titles.  But even those song titles convey a subliminal message of what the listener should feel when listening to a song with that particular title.  Yet, the song with the title Suspicions actually sound sensual, and not paranoid or anxious, even if the drums and bass lean towards a heavier sound and the pianist hits a few discordant notes to convey the song’s mood.

Maalouf’s trumpet or quarter-tone horn sounds warmer on Certainty as it plays in tandem with Mark Turner’s saxophone.  In fact, the style of the music here goes back to the era of Coltrane and Davis.  It’s not as upbeat as Coltrane’s Giant Steps, but a cool as Davis’ Kind of Blue. Sensuality travels down a Latin jazz groove with pianist Frank Woeste and drummer Clarence Penn providing a light salsa effect and the trumpet and saxophone mimicking Cuban vocals. With Wind the musicians bring originality to the table in form of new compositions set to a concept album, but they also pay homage to jazz of another era--a time of mood music.

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