Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Amir Elsaffar: Two Rivers

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar blends the Iraqi maqam (“the music of his father’s ancestral past,” or so it says in the press notes) with jazz, creating some fresh, deep, intensely performed music. ElSaffar’s band (Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto sax; Nasheet Waits, drums; Carlo DeRosa, bass; Tareq Abboushi, buzuq and percussion; Zaafer Tawil, oud, violin, dumbek) has nary a weak link. All have chops and big ears to spare. ElSaffar has obviously taken the time to learn and internalize maqam, taken the areas (heterophony, drones, repetitive rhythmic vamps) in which it intersects with freer forms of jazz, and created an organic amalgam. Mahanthappa and ElSaffar play down the elaborate, microtonally inflected heads with a loose precision, Abboushi and Tawil provide ever-evolving melodic support, and DeRosa and Waits infuse a powerful, earthy drive. There’s not the faintest hint of dabbling here; ElSaffar knows from whence he came, in every respect.