Musical Performance: Two Rivers: Iraqi Maqam meets Jazz

Sat, April 14, 2007 9:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Alwan for the Arts

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Two Rivers: Iraqi Maqam meets Jazz With

Amir ElSaffar (Trumpet and Santoor) Rudresh Mahanthappa (Saxophone) Nasheet Waits (Drums) Carlo DeRosa (Bass) Tareq Abboushi (Buzuq and Percussion) Zafer Tawil (Oud and Violin)

Saturday, April 14, 2007, 9:00 PM $15 ($10 Students with Valid ID)

Amir ElSaffar’s suite, entitled Two Rivers, invokes ancient Iraqi musical traditions and frames them in a modern Jazz setting. The 10 compositions that make up this piece are based on Iraqi Maqam melodies, each of which is believed to have a unique spiritual essence that contains an aspect of Iraq’s history and society.

"Amir ElSaffar, the Iraqi-American trumpeter, is perfectly suited for the annual Festival of New Trumpet (FONT) music. He is a virtuoso on the horn, but also an imaginative bandleader, expanding the vocabulary of the trumpet and at the same time the modern jazz ensemble. Accomplished in the jazz and Western classical fields, ElSaffar has also immersed himself in the Iraqi maqam. Much as Vijay Iyer has done with Carnatic music, ElSaffar is bringing the maqam - the urban classical music of Iraq - into contact with jazz. At Makor (Oct. 5th), during the second month of FONT, ElSaffar played an extended work called ‘Two Rivers’, signifying the Tigris and Euphrates but also the commingling of musical worlds. He began the set on santoor, a type of hammered dulcimer. For a time the group seemed physically split between East and West - with ElSaffar, violinist/oudist/ percussionist Zafer Tawil and buzuq player/pianist Tareq Abboushi on the left and altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa, bassist Carlo DeRosa and drummer Nasheet Waits on the right. Gradually the boundaries blurred; ElSaffar migrated to a standard trumpet and a cornet with a slide, to enable microtones. The music ranged from mournful rubato song to raging New York-style improvisation. Waits took to the mix of rhythms with relish and skill. When ElSaffar returned to santoor, he began to vocalize in authentic maqam style, to haunting effect.” --David R. Adler,

“…when he picked up the trumpet (alternately, cornet) he was playing in the quarter-tone scales of traditional maqam. But that seemed to be a small point -- it wasn't for effect or show, it was simply that he'd adapted his instrument to the needs of the music. Actually, the most noticeable aspect to his playing is his imperturbable sense of focus. There was a moment in one piece, a soft slow piece, when all the others fell away and left Amir by himself. He played with a quiet, airy intensity that not only quieted the whole band, but paralyzed the entire room. After about 30 seconds by himself he simply stopped. There was a collective gasp in the room that stunned. Beautiful.” --Dave Douglas

Last updated: 2007-09-12 07:52:25

Amir ElSaffar
Amir ElSaffar

Alwan for the Arts

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(between Broad St. and Broadway)
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(646) 732-3261

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