Around Town: Amir ElSaffar - Rivers of Sound Large Ensemble: Not Two

Thu, April 16, 2015 7:30 pm at David Rubenstein Atrium

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David Rubenstein Atrium
Lincoln Center, Frieda and Roy Furman Stage

Amir ElSaffar - Rivers of Sound Large Ensemble: Not Two
Thursday, April 16 at 7:30pm

Free and open to the public

Rivers of Sound presents 17 musicians from a broad spectrum of traditions playing on a range of instruments, including the Middle Eastern oud, buzuq, santur (hammered dulcimer), jowza (spike fiddle), and percussion, arrayed with the piano, bass and drums of the American jazz tradition, along with trumpet, saxophones, oboe, strings, and voice. The modal language of the maqam combines with the aesthetics of contemporary music and jazz to create a new musical vocabulary. The unifying principle of this composition, exploration of pure resonance, allows the assembled musicians to explore and experiment together along a continuum of sound encompassing timbre, harmony, pitch and rhythm.

The highest ideal in maqam music is to reach a state of tarab, or “musical ecstasy,” which results from the melting away of borders between a notion of self and other, as performers and audience revel together in the music. This phenomenon is not restricted to the maqam; similar states occur in many musical styles around the globe, and can sometimes be described as a trance. Similar results can be found on a meta level with Rivers of Sound. As pitches and rhythms become fluid, so do cultural boundaries: elements that traditionally divide musicians and genre-specific modes are re-contextualized in a fresh transcultural soundscape.

Participating Musicians:

Tareq Abboushi, Buzuq
Jason Adasciewicz, Vibraphone
Nissam Alatrash, Cello
Fabrizio Cassol, Alto Saxophone
Carlo DeRosa, Bass
Amir ElSaffar, Trumpet, Santur
Dena ElSaffar, Violin, Jowza
Ole Mathisen, Tenor Saxophone
Tim Moore, Percussion
Miles Okazaki, Guitar
JD Parran, Bass Saxophone, Clarinet
Mohammed Saleh, Oboe
Rajna Swaminathan, Mridangam
Craig Taborn, Piano
Zafer Tawil, 'Oud, Percussion
Nasheet Waits, Drums
George Ziadeh, 'Oud, Vocal

+ more information

A Lincoln Center Co-Commission

Underwritten by the MAP Fund and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)


About Amir ElSaffar

Iraqi-American trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer, Amir ElSaffar has mastered disparate musical styles and a singular approach to combining aspects of Middle Eastern music with American jazz, extending the boundaries of each tradition. A skilled jazz trumpeter with a classical background, Amir has created new techniques to play microtones and ornaments that are idiomatic to Arabic music but not typically heard on trumpet. He is an acknowledged performer of the classical Iraqi maqam tradition, and performs actively in the US, Europe and the Middle East as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the microtones found in maqam music to create a unique approach to harmony and melody, establishing an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making.

Awarded grants from Chamber Music America, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Jerome Foundation, Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT), and the Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia, Amir also won the 2001 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Competition. He used the funds from this award to study the Iraqi Maqam and other forms of Arabic music in the Middle East and Europe, and later founded "Safaafir", the only ensemble in the US to perform the Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format.

In New York, he has worked with jazz legend Cecil Taylor, and musicians such as Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer, who incorporate music of their cultural backgrounds into a jazz context. In his native Chicago, he worked with conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Mstislav Rostropovich, and performed on Daniel Barenboim’s Teldec release, “Tribute to Ellington,” with members of the Chicago Symphony. ElSaffar has received commissions from the Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia, the Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT), the Jerome Foundation, the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and Chamber Music America, and has released three albums, Two Rivers, Radif Suite, and Inana. He has composed for theater projects and film soundtracks. Today, he is the part-time Music Director, and curates the concert series and interdisciplinary residencies for Alwan for the Arts.

Amir ElSaffar website


Last updated: 2015-04-13 12:54:35

David Rubenstein Atrium

Lincoln Center, Frieda and Roy Furman Stage
61 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
(212) 875-5350

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