This year’s edition of the Jazzkaar Festival commenced with the Mediterranean inspired flair of Lebanese and French instrumentalist Ibrahim Maalouf. Having mastered a unique trumpet technique invented by his father that allows him to play melodies in the Arab quarter, the bright artist has established himself in the global jazz scene and has performed all over the world. In an interview right before his performance, Maalouf claimed that his favorite part about performing is when he is able to connect and interact with the audience. True to this testament, his powerful stage presence and vibrant character created a show that had the captivated and incorporated the crowd.
In the large theatre room at Telliskivi’s Vaba Lava, the front rows were filled just moments after the doors were opened. Many made the effort to come in twenty minutes before the concert, as the crowd was eager to experience the excellent trumpeter and his band from as close to the stage as possible. Joining Ibrahim Maalouf were Francois Delporte on the guitar, Eric Legnini on the keyboard, and Stephane Galland on the drums. Maalouf, in addition to being a ground-breaking trumpet player, is a pianist who also made use of his own keyboard throughout the band’s act. The diversity of the artist can be attributed to his international career and love for diversity, according to Maalouf growing up as a part of two distinct cultures allows an individual to develop an interest in new thoughts, ideas and perspectives. The result is his unique sound, which extends from playing classical music instruments to electronica as his deep trance music demonstrated while playing before they took the stage.
The music of performance was rich and diverse, and much like Maalouf’s presence on stage the sound was bursting with vitality and passion. The band’s gusto was infectious, and as they performed songs from their newest album “Red & Black Lights”, unfortunately not yet released, Maalouf declared to the audience, “This music is actually meant for dancing.” Indicating to the amused audience that the seated concert hall should not stop them from experiencing the rhythms with both ears and bodies; and instruction to which the crowd eagerly complied. As the songs transformed from wild jazz melodies, to sleek, mystic and contemplative strains, the audience began to pool into the front of the hall, moved by Stephane Gallande’s ferocious beating of the drums. Even the rest of the band joined Gallande, and for a brief segment they suddenly abandoned their own instruments for drumsticks. The four musicians proceeded to pound on drums that materialized into center stage to the delight of the growing mass of dancers, drawn to the thumping madness on stage.
Ibrahim Maalouf’s perspective on jazz is that there are two ‘houses’ of jazz; one that sticks to the classical American origins of the genre and rather sticks to these established sounds, and the other that incorporates the vast variations of world music styles into a new and diverse sounds that is always changing. Needless to say, the musician associates himself with the second group of jazz musicians, as the show demonstrated an intricate blend of Balkan, Arabian, Reggae, Folk and Classical Jazz tastes. According to Maalouf, “The most essential things in life for me are music and family.” And in a performance of a song dedicated to his daughter, he insists that the audience play their part as a chorus of singers. The hall was vibrating with the energy of the band and its listeners, and in singing along they transformed into a lively extension of the band that stretched to the very end of the theatre room. Full of laughter, dancing, singing and expressive music, Ibrahim Maalouf’s opening of the festival was an exuberant appetizer for the myriad of musical acts to follow this spring.
April 17th at Vaba Lava
Ibrahim Maalouf – trumpet
Francois Delporte – guitar
Eric Legnini – piano
Stephane Galland – drums