Around Town: Rivers of Sound with Amir ElSaffar

Sat, February 10, 2018 7:30 pm at NYU Skirball Center

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Amir ElSaffar's Rivers of Sound performs its debut album, Not Two.

Tickets available here.

Acclaimed composer, trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Amir ElSaffar's Rivers of Sound brings together 17 musicians from a broad spectrum of traditions, ranging from Iraqi maqam to American jazz. The music incorporates elements of maqam modal music of the Middle East with jazz and other contemporary practices to create a unique microtonal environment that moves beyond the notions of style and tradition into a realm of uninhibited musical communication.

In Not Two (New Amsterdam Records), each musician in the Rivers of Sound orchestra interacts with the group to create a new approach to transcultural music through the composition, the merging of musical languages, maqam and polyphony and the novelty of the 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 landscape.

Rivers of Sound are:

Amir ElSaffar, trumpet | santur

Carlo De Rosa, acoustic bass

Craig Taborn, 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

About the Artist

Amir ElSaffar ( is an expert trumpeter with a classical backgroud, conversant not only in the language of contemporary jazz, but has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arab music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. He is also a purveryor of the centuries old, now endangered, Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur player. As a composer, ElSaffar has used the subtle microtones found in Iraqi maqam to create an innovative approach to harmony and melody, and has received several commissions to compose for large and small jazz ensembles, traditional Middle Eastern ensembles, chamber orchestras, string quartets and contemporary music and dance ensembles.

Not Two was recorded in analog and released as a double LP with a digital download in June 2017. ElSaffar received support from the MAP Fund, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and Alwan for the Arts to create Rivers of Sound. Not Two was composed and produced by ElSaffar, engineered by Sascha Van Oertzen, mixed by John Davis at Bunker Studios and mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk.

ElSaffar is an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making. He is currently composer-in-residence at the Royamount Foundation in France, 2017-2019.

Last updated: 2018-02-04 14:27:57

Not Two (Album Cover)
Not Two (Album Cover)

NYU Skirball Center

566 LaGuardia Place
New York, NY 10012

Alwan Auction 2016

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