In 'Capacity to Love,' trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf steps out of his comfort zone Common ground is the main theme of Maalouf's new album, which features a wide array of vocalists from across the pop music spectrum. Maalouf also recently revived an international trumpet competition.

Trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf steps out of his comfort zone with 'Capacity to Love'

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CIMAFUNK: (Vocalizing).


French Lebanese trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf is stepping out of his comfort zone.

IBRAHIM MAALOUF: I might just release an album to release an album because this is how I make a living.

MCCAMMON: Following the release of his Grammy-nominated album with Angelique Kidjo, Maalouf is back with a new body of work titled "Capacity To Love," featuring some of the industry's best in pop and hip-hop music. Betto Arcos recently caught up with Maalouf at his recording studio in Paris to discuss the philosophy behind his 15th album.

BETTO ARCOS, BYLINE: Every time he works on a new album, trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf asks himself this question - is he doing something new or is he repeating himself?

MAALOUF: My challenge every time - because I like composing a lot. I like - I love producing and composing. My challenge is every time to try to even surprise myself.


POS: (Rapping) That's life. You gotta taste a little bad with the good, as you should, when you're takin' a bite.

ARCOS: The album features a wide array of vocalists from across the pop music spectrum, from Cimafunk and Tank and the Bangas to hip-hop artists Erick the Architect and De La Soul.

MAALOUF: I love hip-hop culture. I love all American culture. You cannot be a European, for example, or even a Lebanese person without having a big part of your culture that is American because you watch TV, you watch movies, you listen to pop music. So all this is an American influence, and no one can deny that.

ARCOS: Maalouf invited some little-known artists and a few bigger names.


GREGORY PORTER: (Singing) Wide like ancient rivers crossing; grand like Grandma's open hands.

ARCOS: The album title, "Capacity To Love," came from singer Gregory Porter after Maalouf talked to Porter for 30 minutes about his ideas and philosophy behind the album.

MAALOUF: He looked at me, and he said, Ibrahim, you're actually talking about our capacity to love. And then I was like, oh, my God. He just said it in two words instead of a half an hour talking.

ARCOS: Maalouf says this album is his first outside his comfort zone. A week later, I saw him in the type of space he's been familiar with for many years.


ARCOS: It's a chilly evening at the auditorium of La Seine Musicale, a performing arts center on the southwest corner of Paris. Tonight is the concert and award ceremony of the Maurice Andre International Trumpet Competition - organized, produced and emceed by Maalouf. The renowned French classical trumpet player Andre was his father's mentor when he arrived in Paris as an immigrant from Lebanon. The trumpet competition had been dormant for 16 years. Maalouf felt a responsibility to revive it.

MAALOUF: Ten years after the loss of Maurice Andre, we need to bring it back because it's - the name of Maurice Andre, it's what he brought to me, to my father, to our family. And I cannot forget him.


ARCOS: Maalouf covered all the production costs of the competition and the concert. And the French Ministry of Culture stepped in to offer the award prizes to the top three winners. Clement Saunier is the solo principal trumpet player of the Ensemble Intercontemporain at La Philharmonie of Paris. Saunier says Andre's influence helped Maalouf understand the power of his instrument and of being different, blending his father's legacy of Arab music into other sounds.

CLEMENT SAUNIER: Adding this to a classical and jazz and world of music style. And I think this image of finally, everything is possible if I play the trumpet, it's not just playing in the last seat of the band.


ANGELIQUE KIDJO: (Singing in Yoruba).

ARCOS: In the Grammy-nominated "Queen Of Sheba" album, Maalouf's trumpet is front and center, along with Angelique Kidjo's voice. The album is a seven-part suite connecting Africa to the Middle East. Kidjo wrote songs in the Yoruba language inspired by riddles the queen of Sheba proposed to King Solomon. Maalouf composed and arranged the music. Kidjo says she chose riddles that are relevant in the world today, such as this one called "Ahan" about the power of the word.


KIDJO: (Singing in Yoruba).

We need to talk to one another and find common ground because it's our fate. We are made to live together. And if we lose the ability to talk to one another, then we start killing one another.

ARCOS: Common ground is Maalouf's main theme on his new album, "Capacity To Love." His ideal world is explored in the video of the song "El Mundo," featuring Brazilian singer Flavia Coelho and DJ Tony Romera.


FLAVIA COELHO: (Singing in Portuguese).

MAALOUF: It's a world where there's no judgments. We don't judge people from the appearances or on the way they live. We just accept. And that doesn't threaten your identity. When you accept people in your family, it doesn't mean that they are going to change you or that doesn't mean that you're threatened. It just means that we share values.

ARCOS: Maalouf says he doesn't expect an album to change the world, but he is hopeful.

For NPR News, I'm Betto Arcos.


COELHO: (Singing in Portuguese).

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