Amir ElSaffar and Two Rivers Ensemble
Amir ElSaffar — trumpeter, santur (hammered dulcimer) player, vocalist, and composer — is a master of diverse sounds. The Chicago-area native has distinguished himself by combining Middle Eastern traditions with jazz and other styles of music. ElSaffar, who has a degree in classical trumpet from DePaul University, is fluent in the idiom of jazz, but he has also created techniques to play microtones and ornaments associated with Arabic music that are rarely heard on trumpet.
Two Rivers Ensemble, a sextet, combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz. The ensemble’s music speaks the vernacular of swing, improvisation, and group interaction.
“Cyclical melodic cells and rhythmic complications took on another cast when deployed by Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble …,” writes a reviewer for DownBeat. “This was certainly the first Middle Eastern-imbued jazz combo at Newport [Jazz Festival] to win a standing ovation for its first song.”
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Patricia Best and Thomas Ray
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