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Amir ElSaffar at Muziekgebouw

Read "Amir ElSaffar at Muziekgebouw" reviewed by Henning Bolte

Amir ElSaffar Muziekgebouw World Première LUMINESCENCIA at Flamenco Biennale NL 2019 Amsterdam February 2, 2019 Luminescencia" is a new work by US-American composer-musician Amir ElSaffar, co-produced by Dutch Flamenco Biënnale and French Fondation Royaument. It had its world-première in Amsterdam at this year's Flamenco Biennale, a country-wide festival in The Netherlands founded by Ernestina van de Noort in 2006. The line-up of the performing ensemble already indicated the extraordinary character of ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound: Not Two

Read "Not Two" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Much has been written about Amir ElSaffar's Iraqi-American background and the influence that birthright has had on his music. The demographics, however, do little to prepare the ear for the exotic and completely distinctive sound that he creates. ElSaffar's Western and Middle Eastern amalgam of disciplines had best manifested itself in his sextet, the Two Rivers Ensemble. His Rivers of Sound ensemble of seventeen players expands ElSaffar's musical reach to incorporate a broader global perspective on Not Two.There ...

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Amir ElSaffar and the Two Rivers Ensemble: Crisis

Read "Crisis" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

On his third album with the Two Rivers ensemble, Crisis trumpeter and composer Amir ElSaffar continues to explore the Arabic Maqam modal system. He uses this melodic type in a context with strong American influences and particularly jazz sensibilities. The result is not merely a superficial, kitschy fusion but true marriage of two improvisational traditions. ElSaffar's tenure In Egypt and Lebanon partly inspired the seven-part suite commissioned for and performed at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival. The work's ...

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Amir ElSaffar: Crisis

Read "Crisis" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Chicago area native, Amir ElSaffar has been working inside and outside the typical context of jazz since his Two Rivers Ensemble debut, Two Rivers (PI Recordings, 2007). The trumpeter and composer (and master santour player) has built a unique musical architecture based his study of the microtonal techniques of his ancestral Iraqi maqam. While ElSaffar was not raised with a strong sense of father's native culture, his own interest led him to travel extensively in the Middle East. His recent ...

INTERVIEWS

Amir ElSaffar: At Two Rivers' Confluence

Read "Amir ElSaffar: At Two Rivers' Confluence" reviewed by Daniel Lehner

There was a point during Amir ElSaffar's study of Arabic music where he almost didn't come back to jazz. He had gone to Iraq to study maqam, the system of melodic modes in traditional Arabic music, in order to bring some of the concepts into jazz. However, the experience proved to be a deepening one for ElSaffar. “I was supposed to spend three weeks in Iraq, but once I had gotten a taste I realized that I ...

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Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble: Inana

Read "Inana" reviewed by Troy Collins

Born in Chicago to an American mother and Iraqi father, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar put his promising jazz career on hold in 2002 to study traditional Iraqi maqam abroad. His 2007 debut, Two Rivers (Pi Recordings), bore the fruit of his international studies, successfully fusing venerable aspects of the Iraqi classical vocal tradition with advanced improvisation techniques culled from American jazz. Pushing the cross-cultural envelope even further, Radif Suite (Pi Recordings), his 2010 collaboration with Iranian-American tenor saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh, combined ...

MEGAPHONE

Discoveries Along The Pitch Continuum

Read "Discoveries Along The Pitch Continuum" reviewed by Amir ElSaffar

Growing up in an Iraqi-American household in Chicago, I was exposed to many musical influences from an early age: first Louis Armstrong, then Lutheran Hymns, then the Beatles, then Hendrix, then Miles. Arabic music, though constantly playing in the background during family gatherings, did not capture my attention until I was in my mid-teens and my sister Dena started a Middle Eastern music ensemble, called Salaam. I was intrigued by their music, but knowing that it used 'quarter tones,' it ...

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Amir ElSaffar / Hafez Modirzadeh: Radif Suite

Read "Radif Suite" reviewed by Stuart Broomer

This is an illuminating meeting between musicians who share similar cultural background and creative directions. Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar is an Iraqi-American whose work has fused elements of jazz and the maqam music of Iraq. His CD-length suite from 2007, Two Rivers, was a triumph of synthesis and vision. Tenor saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh is an older Iranian-American who has worked with jazz forms and Persian dastgah to develop his own tonal system that he dubs “chromodal," suggesting perhaps the “harmolodics" of ...

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Amir ElSaffar: Two Rivers

Read "Two Rivers" reviewed by Laurel Gross

This exploration of Iraqi, American and Arab sensibilities, rooted in the lands and cultures bordering the Tigris and Euphrates rivers--the two flowing sources of the CD's title--is deeply affecting, musically adventurous and provocative. American-born ElSaffar, a talented New York-based trumpeter/composer, ventured to Iraq six years ago to study the music of his father's country of heritage. He returned to the US with a working knowledge of its centuries-old musical Maqam tradition, rich in emotional and storytelling content ...

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Amir ElSaffar: Two Rivers

Read "Two Rivers" reviewed by Troy Collins

The blues are universal. Nowhere is this more implicit than Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar's Pi Recordings debut Two Rivers. Drawing inspiration from the complex and often bloody history surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, ElSaffar's multi-layered writing is equally rooted in traditional Arabic classicism and Western concepts of jazz improvisation.

A child of the Chicago suburbs, ElSaffar's interest in traditional Iraqi music is fairly recent. A former sideman to pianists Cecil Taylor and Vijay Iyer, ElSaffar made multiple ...