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Amir ElSaffar and Rivers Of Sound Orchestra and Omar Bashir

Amir ElSaffar, a renowned Iraqi-American musician who plays the trumpet along with Arab instruments and sings jazz as well as traditional Iraqi maqam, will perform in the first half of the concert, while with the acclaimed Iraqi oud virtuoso, Omar Bashir will play in the second half.
Part 1: 45 minutes

Intermission: 20 minutes

Part 2: 45 minutes

Amir ElSaffar, an innovative Iraqi-American musician based in New York, plays the trumpet and santur (dulcimer) and sings jazz as well as classical and Arab music. ElSaffar studied with Hamid Al Saadi, one of the most renowned singers of Iraqi maqam which is music in traditional Arab melodic modes. In a unique approach to harmony and melody with the trumpet, ElSaffar has created new techniques to play microtones and ornaments from Arab music, especially from Iraqi maqam. ElSaffar will perform Rivers of Sound with a large ensemble of instrumentalists from Western and Middle Eastern traditions, as he explores the confluence of streams in a new language of music that transcends standard notions of composition and style.

Iraqi oud virtuoso, Omar Bashir performs in prestigious concert halls and has won numerous international awards. Omar first learned his art at the age of five from his father, an oud maestro and supreme master of the Arab maqamat scale system. Two years later the young child studied at the Baghdad Music & Ballet School and made his first solo debut at the Baghdad Conservatory at the age of nine. Eventually Bashir created his own band and went on tour throughout the region and abroad. Bashir’s music is a mix of traditional Arab styles with jazz-like improvisation. Omar Bashir performs for charity and is recognised by UNESCO as preserving an important art for world heritage.

  • Amir ElSaffar, trumpet/santur

  • Carlo DeRosa, acoustic bass

  • Aruan Ortiz, piano

  • Dena ElSaffar, violin/jowza

  • Fabrizio Cassol, alto saxophone

  • George Ziadeh, oud/vocals

  • Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone

  • JD Parran, bass saxophone/clarinet

  • Miles Okazaki, guitar

  • Mohammed Saleh, oboe/English horn

  • Naseem AlAtrash, cello

  • Nasheet Waits, drums

  • Ole Mathisen, tenor saxophone/soprano saxophone

  • Rajna Swaminathan, mridangam

  • Tareq Abboushi, buzuq

  • Tim Moore, percussion/dumbek/frame drum

  • Zafer Tawil, percussion/oud

Rivers of Sound is a large ensemble of instrumentalists from Western and Middle Eastern traditions, exploring the confluences of a musical language that transcends notions of tradition and style. In performing Not Two, an original composition by Amir ElSaffar, each musician interacts with the group through both improvised and composed material to create a novel composite sound.

Composer, trumpeter, santur player and vocalist, Amir ElSaffar, an expert in Jazz and Iraqi maqam, has forged his novel approach to combining musical languages through his six-piece ensemble Two Rivers. Over the past eight years, the group has released three CD’s on Pi Recordings. Crisis, the most recent, was a Newport Jazz Festival commission. Jazz critic of the The Chicago Tribune, Howard Reich, declared Crisis “one of the most beautiful and evocative jazz recordings of the year.” A reviewer for The Wire, stated that “ElSaffar is uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music without doing either harm…the result of engagement across the board, presented with clarity and eloquence.”

Rivers of Sound: Not Two is a continuation of the Two Rivers concept, but projected onto a wider canvas unprecedented in scope and imagination. Microtonal maqam melodies traverse a richly-textured bed of sound created by oud, buzuk, and santur, in combination with cello, violin, saxophones, English horn and trumpet. Also at play are multilayered, rhythmic patterns and harmonies performed by re-tuned vibraphone, piano and guitar. The drum set, mridangam, dumbek, frame drums and double-bass provide the rhythmic foundation and subdivisions of the multiple currents. Resonance across rhythmic, tonal, and timbral spectra, and across musical traditions, is the guiding principle.

ElSaffar’s music is at once unique and engaging, full of heart and passion. Challenging notions of composition vs. improvisation, tradition vs. modernity, microtonality/modality vs. harmony, his compositions bring to light the universality of music across cultures. Given the catastrophes befalling the people of the Middle Eastern and Arab lands, his music is both timely and urgent as he is preserving elements of these cultures by bringing them into context with contemporary musical forms.

ElSaffar received funding from the MAP Fund and Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, to create Rivers of Sound. The 17 members came to New York City from as far away as Qatar, Palestine, and Brussels in April for three days of rehearsal, the premiere of Not Two at the Lincoln Center, and an epic 14-hour day at Avatar Studios, where they recorded the 80-minute suite directly to tape. ElSaffar believes that the nature of this sound cannot be captured digitally and has committed to all analog, with a double LP to be released on May 28th, 2017.

March 25 2017       7:30 PM  

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