Ibrahim Maalouf is a major figure in contemporary jazz, crossover classical music, and film composition. Among the most heralded trumpeters of his generation, his fusions of pop, soul, electro, hip-hop, French chanson, and the traditional music of his Lebanese heritage has resulted in more than two-dozen acclaimed albums and original scores for more than 20 films. Maalouf is also a noted collaborator who has performed and recorded with artists including Sting, Vanessa Paradis, and Jon Batiste. His earliest charting albums, including 2007's Diasporas, 2012's Wind, and 2013's Illusions, established him globally. In 2014, he collaborated with Malian rapper Oxmo Puccino for the charting Au Pays d'Alice.... In 2015, Red & Black Light reached France's Top Ten; the same year, his music for the film Yves Saint Laurent won a best score nomination at the Cesar Awards. He scored Naomi Kawase's award-winning 2017 film Radiance, and issued Dalida, a tribute to the late Egyptian-born Italian singer with vocalists Melody Gardot and Rokia Traore, among others. 2018 saw the release of the long-form crossover jazz/classical work Levantine Symphony No. 1. He followed that with the large-scale Latin jazz and vocal project S3NS and three film scores, including one for the award-winning Who You Think I Am. In November of 2020, he issued 40 Melodies, a double-length retrospective of tunes from across his career in duets with longtime collaborator, guitarist François Delporte, and several guest stars.
Born in Beirut in 1980 to a pianist mother and famous trumpeter father Nassim, Ibrahim fled to the suburbs of Paris with his family at a young age in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War. Inspired by his parents' musical background, he began studying the trumpet and classical Arabic music from the age of seven on a four-valve microtonal trumpet his father invented, allowing him to play the quarter tones in Middle Eastern scales. As a teen, he often performed the works of Vivaldi, Purcell, and Albinoni alongside his father; they played throughout Europe and the Middle East. Following a well-received interpretation of Bach's 2nd Brandenburg Concerto, often considered one of the most difficult pieces in the classical trumpet repertoire, Maalouf was encouraged by French trumpeter Maurice Andre to abandon his proposed scientific career and become a professional musician instead. While studying for five years at the esteemed CNR and CNSM de Paris, he continued to develop his technical skills while participating in several European/international competitions, and playing on records by the likes of Matthieu Chedid, Arthur H, and Vincent Delerm. Between 1999 and 2003, Maalouf earned awards in 15 competitions throughout the world, including first prizes in the Hungarian International Trumpet Competition and the National Trumpet Competition in Washington, D.C.
In 2006, Maalouf became a trumpet instructor at the CNR of Aubervilliers-La Courneuve and was regularly invited to present master classes and recitals across the U.S. Inspired by Arab artists Oum Kalsoum and Fairuz, composers Mahler and Mozart, and classic jazz musicians Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, he released his first studio album, Diasporas, on his own Mi'ster label in 2007; that same year he was the subject of Christophe Trahand's documentary film Souffle! Maalouf followed with the charting Diachronism in 2009, and was recruited by Sting to appear on If on a Winter's Night.
In July 2010, Maalouf was given the Instrumental Revelation of the Year prize at the French Victoires du Jazz awards. A year later, his Diagnostic long-player landed inside France's Top 100, the first time one of his albums had charted nationally. The trajectory of his successes began to multiply. While 2012's Wind was his first album to chart across the European continent and win notice from American jazz critics, 2013's Illusions landed inside France's Top 40 and charted in five European countries. In 2014, Maalouf composed the score for director Jalil Lespert's worldwide hit Yves Saint Laurent; it was nominated for best score at France's César Awards. In addition, Maalouf, in collaboration with Malian rapper Oxmo Puccino, released Au Pays d'Alice... It peaked at 43 in France.
Maalouf released two charting albums in 2015. The first, Kalthoum, was a jazz interpretation of Egyptian singer/songwriter Oum Kalthoum's hour-long composition "Alf Leila Wa Leila" ("A Thousand and One Nights"); he led a quintet that included pianist Frank Woeste, drummer Clarence Penn, bassist Larry Grenadier, and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. It peaked at 17 in France and charted across Europe. His second charting album, Red & Black Light, was a contemporary jazz-funk outing that peaked at number eight in France and charted on both sides of the Atlantic. That same year, Maalouf's score for director Sepideh Farsi's 2014 film Red Rose saw commercial release.
Two years later, Maalouf paid tribute to Egyptian-born Italian singer Dalida with a namesake album that included collaborations with a range of notable vocalists including Melody Gardot, Rokia Traore, Thomas Dutronc, Izïa, and Alain Souchon. He also managed to score three films including In the Forests of Siberia and released a collaboration with Turkey's Haïdouti Orkestar titled La Vache. In addition, Maalouf scored writer/director Naomi Kawase's award-winning film Radiance, which took home the jury prize for best film at the year's Cannes film festival.
2018 proved to be one of Maalouf's busiest years yet. He released the internationally acclaimed Levantine Symphony No. 1, a crossover work for symphony orchestra, and choir that melded classical, jazz, Middle Eastern, and film music into a seamless whole. He also released the soundtracks/scores for Claus Drexel's America documentary, Mark Wilson's Wade in the Water, and Ounie Lecomte's Je Vous Souhaite d’être Follement Aimee. He also released a deluxe edition of a concert album entitled 14.12.16: Live in Paris that featured guest spots from Puccino and Amadou & Miriam.
On 2019's S3NS, Maalouf paid a multi-genre homage to his Latin influences and friends. Long associated with Latino musicians including Raul Paz, Ernesto Tito Puentes, Angel Parra, Omar Sosa, and Ibeyi, and late Mexican singer/songwriter Lhasa de Sela, this nine-track collection mixed Afro-Cuban sounds with, rock, pop, and jazz. It offered guest spots from a range of all-star Cuban musicians including pianists Alfredo Rodriguez, Harold Lopez-Nussa, and Roberto Fonseca, saxophonist Irving Acao, and violinist/vocalist Yilian Cañizares. It peaked at number two on the French radio charts and inside the Top 20 across digital streaming services. Also in 2019, Maalouf issued film scores for Mohamed Hamidi's Jusqu'ici Tout Va Bien (critically noted for its crossover of contemporary jazz, funk, and soul) and a classically themed score for writer/director Safy Nebbou's award-winning Juliette Binoche vehicle Who You Say I Am.
In 2020, Maalouf released his most unusual score. Composed for Hamidi's Une Belle Equipe, its visionary soundtrack wed Latin- and Spanish-, Cuban-, and Middle Eastern-inspired melodies played by an orchestra and marching band with hip- hop beats. In the fall he released 40 Melodies. Celebrating his 40th birthday, the album was at once an overview of his career and a notable back-to-basics change in direction. The entire two-disc, 43-track set was performed in duos. While his primary collaborator was longtime guitarist François Delporte, it was a star-studded affair with Jon Batiste, Marcus Miller, Kronos Quartet, Arturo Sandoval, Trilok Gurtu, Sting, and Richard Bona joining Maalouf in duets.
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