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Venue:
Philadelphia Art Alliance251 S. 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA Map
Price: $15 General Admission
Saturday, February 18, 2012 - 8:00pm

Amir ElSaffar and the Two Rivers Ensemble

Amir ElSaffar, trumpet + santur + vocals
Ole Mathisen, saxophones
Tareq Abboushi, buzuq
Zafer Tawil, oud + percussion
Carlo DeRosa, bass
Tyshawn Sorey , drums

Join Ars Nova Workshop for a performance by the Two Rivers Ensemble led by Iraqi-American composer-performer Amir ElSaffar, whose unique compositions bring together traditional Iraqi and jazz musics.

“Amir ElSaffar is uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music without doing either harm,” writes The Wire. “[His] music [is] the result of engagement across the board, presented with clarity and eloquence.” Iraqi-American trumpeter, santour player, vocalist, and composer ElSaffar is on the forefront of a wave of musicians who are incorporating the traditional musical styles of their cultural backgrounds with modern sensibilities, blurring the lines between styles. Whether playing trumpet in a jazz context, or singing and playing santour in an Iraqi setting, he brings a depth of emotion and authenticity to his music that has spoken to audiences globally.

Helping ElSaffar bring his singular compositional and improvisational concept to life is The Two Rivers Ensemble, a group of highly-skilled, creative musicians: Tyshawn Sorey, one of the most dynamic drummers in jazz and a member of Fieldwork with Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman; bassist Carlo DeRosa, who's worked with Rudresh Mahanthappa and Nasheet Waits; Tareq Abboushi on buzuq (a long-necked lute) whose Mumtastic album contains his own blend of jazz and Arabic forms; multi-instrumentalist and virtuoso Zafer Tawil, who is one of the most in-demand Arab musicians in New York; and the newest member of the ensemble, saxophonist Ole Mathisen, who replaced Mahanthappa when the latter’s burgeoning career made it difficult for him to commit time to the project. Mathisen has been active on the New York scene for almost 20 years in a wide assortment of contexts including Persian, Indian and Latin music.

After five years of extensive performing and touring, the Two Rivers Ensemble has developed an instinctive ease with this highly complex music, enabling the band to play with a creativity that transcends pure technical challenge. While Two Rivers (Pi; 2007), the ensemble's first recording, combined elements found in the modal music of the Iraqi maqam with the rhythms and aesthetics of modern jazz, Inana (Pi; 2011) builds on those concepts to include a microtonal harmonic and melodic language influenced by the pitch-flexibility of Middle Eastern music. The consquence is a transformation of the jazz idiom, though the music still speaks the language of swing, improvisation and group interaction.