Following up on the more modal and acoustic jazz sound of his 2012 release Wind, Lebanese trumpet player and composer Ibrahim Maalouf returned to the studio with his own live band to record his fifth album Illusions (2013). With the theme of illusion and magic trickery transpiring from the “concept” album, the musician draws a parallel with the hidden and elusive magic of music.

Ibrahim Maalouf - Illusions (2013)
Ibrahim Maalouf – Illusions (2013)

Characterised this time by a lush jazz-rock sound with a Fender Rhodes, electric guitars and a horn section, most instrumentals on Illusions follow a pop format while drawing on the call and response structure of certain African and Arabic traditions. But unlike a conventional brass section, the musician trained three “traditional” jazz trumpet players to play his trademark quarter-tone trumpet:

I wanted to try to add a sort of Arabic horn section to the set up […] That’s a dream I’ve had for a long time – a bit in the tradition of Arabic or African or Gnawa music, all those musical traditions where you create a phrase and you have a group, a chorus responding to and echoing your phrase to give it meaning, to give it more body, more substance. 

With sometimes strong 1970s funk-rock accents, the band elaborates lively conversations from which emerges the crystal clear, unique and magic voice of Ibrahim Maalouf on the trumpet.