Ibrahim Maalouf’s new album Capacity To Love (November 4) opens with Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from The Dictator and ends with a poem that actress Sharon Stone wrote and recited for this project. Packed with special guests and surprises at every turn, it’s an album unlike any other that thetrumpeter/composer/producer/songwriter has ever made in a tremendous two decade career. Maalouf has released 17 albums, has sold out the biggest arena in his home country of France and was recently a musical guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He’s known for his dazzling mastery of the four-valve trumpet, designed by his father, which enables him to play the melodies and tones of the Middle East and his Lebanese roots.
Maalouf has collaborated with everyone from Sting to Wynton Marsalis, but he’s never worked with this many guests on one album. Capacity To Love boasts an eclectic and truly global array: rapper D Smoke, hip hop legends De La Soul, Flatbush Zombies’ rapper/producer Erick the Architect, jazz singer Gregory Porter, New Orleans’ Tank and the Bangas, Platinum UK singer-songwriter JP Cooper, the aforementioned Sharon Stone, Rio’s Flavia Coehlo, Ethiopian-American R&B upstart Alemeda, Stevie Wonder protege Sheléa Frazier, Cuban funk-rapper Cimafunk, tenor a capella singer Austin Brown and more.
“The perspective I wrote from in our song ‘Money’ was from an individual who believes he can control anything, much like the attitudes of people with a bunch of money. My favorite part of the record is when I switched my flow up at the end when things go a bit haywire. I wanted to write a song like this because of what it represents. If you exploit anything you worked hard for, you may even turn on yourself”, says Erick the Architect.
A hopeful album that confronts some of life’s ugliness, Capacity To Love was created by Maalouf over the past year, with a deep exploration of r&b and hip hop production for the first time in his career. The result is a fusion of sounds and genres, all shot through with Maalouf’s distinctive flurry of trumpet playing. In another break from his past work, he worked closely with two young producers to bring his cinematic vision of trumpet music for the club to life: Henry Was and NuTone. The album features 14 tracks andpushes musical boundaries at every turn, often exploding with high doses of energy and riffs from Maalouf that shoot into the stratosphere. “The Pope” featuring D Smoke basks in a dark intensity, “Quiet Culture” featuring De La Soul is buoyed by a chorus of kids, and the title track featuring Gregory Porter is a centerpiece of the album’s remarkable production, blending gospel, jazz, trap beats and the sounds of the Middle East into something both joyful and haunting.
“Making Capacity To Love was like nothing I’ve ever done before in my career – working with producers and so many different artists on a single project – and I hope it makes you want to jump out of your seat and move. I was really inspired by my love for film as these songs came together, the goal was to make it feel cinematic like a classic drama movie that we all share in watching together”, says Maalouf.
Maalouf has taken a surprising path to Capacity To Love: he started learning traditional Arabic music when he was very young, shifted into classical music for nearly two decades and more recently to jazz and pop, which has catapulted him to stardom. Just watch this video of the crowd at a recent Maalouf show in France for evidence.
Ever-prolific, in June Maalouf released Queen of Sheba, an album he created with another star of international music, Angelique Kidjo. An ambitious 7-part suite which was composed for a full orchestra by Maalouf, featuring lyrics by Kidjo, and sung by Kidjo in Yoruba, it was inspired by the ancient myth of the Queen of Sheba. It prompted SPIN to say it “may be the most interesting album of the year”. Maalouf will also bring Capacity To Love on tour this fall, for his biggest venues yet in North America including a sold-out Le Poisson Rouge in NYC, see below for the full itinerary.
Hailed as a “virtuoso” by The New York Times, Maalouf has spent his career crossing borders and blurring genres, mixing jazz, pop, classical, electronic, Middle Eastern, and African influences into an explosive, cross-cultural swirl. Born in the midst of a deadly civil war, Maalouf escaped Beirut with his family as a child and spent his formative years in France, where he first fell in love with music’s power to transcend geography and language. Over the past decade alone, he’s performed in 40 countries, sold out arenas from Paris to Istanbul, has been scouted by Quincy Jones and raised millions for charity. In the fall of 2021 he performed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, introduced by Jon Batiste as “a living legend of jazz” and performed in front of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day for an audience of six million.