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Two Rivers by Amir ElSaffar

Iraqi-American trumpeter and visionary Amir ElSaffar is weaver of genres here on this altogether, enticing progressive-jazz effort. Enveloping the world music vibe amid the core jazz element, the trumpeter employs instrumentalists who use indigenous instruments from the Middle East, North Africa and other regions − to great effect I might add. The storyline behind this album pertains to the flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, leading to the destruction of the world’s first cities.

ElSaffar’s power-packed program is wrapped in chants, tribal rituals, and exotic sojourns that are transparently morphed into cutting-edge like jazz scenarios. Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa slices and dices through many of these works via a rippling mode of execution. And of course, the saxophonist is no stranger to melding East Indian modal practices with modern jazz, witnessed by his solo albums and rapidly increasing stature as an ace session player.

On the opening number "Menba (Maqam Bayat)," ElSaffar launches a Third World vibe that ascends into a robust jazz romp, heightened by his soaring lines. Ultimately, the music is engineered upon stewing rhythmic sequences and the hornists’ jubilant choruses.

Mahanthappa dives head first into the piece titled "Flood (Maqam Hadid)," where he solos atop propulsive beats and Zafer Tawil’s flowing yet nimble, oud performances. Then on "Diaspora (Maqam Lami), the front-line generates a whirling dervish flurry of intersecting notes, that sort of mimic the buoyant underpinnings of the world-groove cadences. Sure enough, ElSaffar’s mindset conveys a wide-ranging fusion of disparate musical climates as his methodologies harvest a rather joyous celebration of the spirits. Simply put, it sounds as though it was meant to be.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Amir ElSaffar
  • CD Title: Two Rivers
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: PI Recordings
  • Rating: Four Stars
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