Great New Albums from Natacha Atlas, Esquivel & Ibrahim Maalouf

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Natacha Atlas – Expressions: Live In Toulouse (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Natacha Atlas – Expressions: Live in Toulouse (Mazeeka)

Natacha Atlas, born in Brussels of English and Egyptian heritage, Natacha Atlas has been brining cultural divides together for over two decades.  She was lead vocalist with the UK’s great band Transglobal Underground before going out on her own with solo albums such as Diaspora, Gedida, Ana Hina, and Mounqaliba.

The new album features her in orchestral settings with songs both in English, Arabic and a stunning version of Nick Drake‘s classic “River Man”.  The music brings both Arabic and Occidental music styles together into a seamless musical alchemy.

Here is Natacha Atlas with the Toulouse Orchestra:

Perfect Vision: The Esquivel Sound!

Perfect Vision: The Esquivel Sound! (Basta Music)

Finally, a newly-recorded album celebrating the space age bachelor pad sounds of the Mexican composer Juan Garcia Esquivel. The charts are the classic ones, conducted by the talented composer/conductor Vince Mendoza and featuring the sublime Metropole Orchestra of Amsterdam, one of the best big jazz bands in the world. On it you find classics like “Poinciana”, “La Raspa”, and the otherworldly treatment of the classic tango “Jalousie” for which the late Mexican composer was so famous. The album and artwork reflect Esquivel’s optometric comportment: he always wore big, oversized glasses with bold frames.

Here’s a fun video of Esquivel’s “Mini-Skirt” to revisit the 1960s:

Ibrahim Maalouf – Wind (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Ibrahim Maalouf – Wind  (French import, M’ister Productions)

Ibrahim Maalouf is the son of the veteran Arabic quarter-tone classical trumpeter, Nassim Maalouf.  Maalouf fils broke out of the classical mold perfected by his father and went his own way, venturing into jazz and other styles. Maalouf is mixing Eastern and Western DNA–Western and Arabic music– much like Natacha Atlas, Wind is actually the soundtrack to a 1927 Rene Clair film called La Proie du Vent (Prey of the Wind, shortened to just “The Wind).  The album is also an hommage to Miles Davis’1957 soundtrack to l’Ascenseur Pour l’Echafaud (Lift to the Scaffold), the first film by director Louis Malle. Both Davis and Maalouf’s albums sustain a hypnotic mood from start to finish, and I can’t stop listening to both of them. Connected by history, both are unusual and evocative.

Watch Mark Turner, Clarence Penn, and other U.S.  jazz musicians on working with Lebanese-Parisian Arabic quarter-tone trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf:

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