The age of 40, in America at least, is looked at with fear as the start of middle age. For many, it is a state of limbo; the knee pains say they are not young; however, that black hair says they are not old either. Many people buy a motorcycle or start an ill-conceived fling with a college sweetheart. Ibrahim Maalouf celebrated his fortieth with 40 Melodies, a work which features the trumpet player revisiting songs from his past and presenting new ones, in a radical departure from his previous work.
40 Melodies is reminiscent of a friend's birthday party where, after a long night of revelry, someone picks up a guitar, someone picks up a trumpet and guests join in at will to lend a hand to the central duo. It is beautiful, but there is a slight melancholy of the knowledge that things may never be like this again. Here, instead of a drunken cousin, the guests include bassists Marcus Miller and Richard Bona, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, and the Kronos Quartet. Though all these guests prevent the duo format from becoming repetitive and stale, Kronos' appearance is the most welcome. The quartet's expansion of the somber piano track from his soundtrack for "Yves Saint Laurent" marks a moment of grandiosity in an otherwise barebones recording, like the brick walls of a house falling apart to reveal a glass cathedral.
The most arresting songs are the ones which allow Maalouf and Belgian guitarist Francois Delporte to be alone together, their easy-going jamming belied by over ten years of friendship and collaboration. The minimalist presentation cuts the fat off previously overwrought compositions, such as "Beirut," whose original appearance on Diagnostic revealed a song with potential which was unfortunately marred by a bombastic ending, complete with distorted rock guitar which undercut the quiet sense of mourning it developed over its ten-minute duration. On 40 Melodies , the song is more focused at half the original length. Though there is still a great increase of energy towards the end of the piece, the change feels more natural; the sense of hope after tragedy which the original attempted succeeds here because of the stripped- down setting.
The title 40 Melodies is a bit of a misnomer, as there are 43 songs on this double album. The last three are the only new songs Maalouf brings to the table. "All around the Wall" and "Layla's Wedding" are both relatively upbeat. The tap-dancing of Sarah Reich gives "Wedding" the sense of joy which the event it is named after (hopefully) had. On 40 Melodies , Maalouf and Delporte offer not only a masterclass in duo playing but in how to age gracefullyrecontextualizing their past to create something new from old parts while simultaneously not getting lost in nostalgia.
True Sorry (Duo Version) 4:09 Free Spirit (Duo Version) 4:22 Beirut (Duo Version) 4:37 Happy Face (Duo Version)
4:07 Hashish (Duo Version) 2:37 Défilé 1962 (Duo Version) 3:54 Harlem (Duo Version) 4:32 Red & Black Light
(Duo Version) 3:12 Kalthoum (Movement I) (Duo Version) 3:38 Esse Emme (Duo Version) 3:16 S3NS (Duo
Version) 4:41 Celle que vous croyez (Duo Version) 3:40 InPressi (Duo Version) 3:48 Diaspora (Duo Version)
2:54 Les Quais (Duo Version) 3:06 Will Soon Be a Woman (Duo Version) 3:09 Essentielles (Duo Version)2:08
Radio Magallanes (Duo Version) 5:35 Maeva in Wonderland (Duo Version) 4:35 Surprises (Duo Version)
4:14 L'Anniversaire (Duo Version) 2:24 Levantine Symphony No. 1 (Duo Version) 4:47 Una Rosa Blanca (Duo
Version) 2:44 Improbable (Duo Version) 3:57 Le Grand Voyage (Duo Version) 3:08 Radiance (Duo Version)2:55
L'Heure du T (Duo Version)3:08 All I Can't Say (Duo Version) 3:11 Gebrayel (Duo Version) 1:59 Marseille (Duo
Version) 3:49 Your Soul (Duo Version) 2:41 Shadows (Duo Version) 3:14 Goodnight Kiss (Duo Version) 3:50
Sensuality (Duo Version)4:04 Questions & Answers (Duo Version) 3:29 Red Rose (Duo Version) 3:21 Election
Night (Duo Version) 2:52 Ya Ha La (Duo Version) 2:18 Waiting (Duo Version) 3:08 Salma Ya Salama (Duo Version)
3:35 All Around the Wall 3:03 Layla's Wedding 2:28 If I
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