Amir ElSaffar Quintet

    Live Music
    Friday August 8, 2014 @ 7:00 PM

    $18.00 in advance / $20.00 day of
    Member Price: $16.20

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    The innovative Amir ElSaffar Quintet, featuring John Escreet on piano, Francois Moutin on bass, Dan Weiss on drums, Ole Mathisen on tenor saxophone, and ElSaffar on trumpet, re-imagines the Iraqi Maqam to explore new microtonal harmonies and chord progressions, mixed with Mesopotamian modes.

    Trumpeter, santur player, vocalist, and composer Amir ElSaffar has distinguished himself with a mastery of disparate musical styles and a singular approach to combining aspects of Middle Eastern music with American jazz, extending the boundaries of each tradition. As a composer, ElSaffar has developed a unique microtonal approach to harmony and melody, establishing an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making. His recent Quintet release, Alchemy, represents the latest chapter in his continuing investigation into the tonal systems of the Arab world within a jazz context. ElSaffar has received numerous grants to compose music, released four albums to critical acclaim, and was a recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. 

    ElSaffar’s newest ensemble, the Amir ElSaffar Quintet, has developed out of an ongoing project of standard jazz instrumentation for which he has composed since 2001. The quintet performs compositions that re-contextualize the non-tempered pitches found in the Iraqi Maqam to explore new and unique microtonal harmonies and chord progressions. Previously including re-tuned piano, the group currently features equal-tempered piano instead perceived as “de-tuned” by the microtonal context created by surrounding instruments. Other compositions are based on Mesopotamian modes, which form the basis of the tonal systems that have persisted from Ancient Greek to contemporary music theory. Looking back to the ancient and forward to innovative sonic possibilities, the Quintet chronologically frames the Iraqi Maqam tradition, re-examining its position in music history.

    ElSaffar’s quintet is made up of some of the top improvising musicians in New York: John Escreet (piano) is an innovative and adventurous pianist with six albums under his own name; Francois Moutin (bass), who plays with unparalleled chops on his instrument, leads the Moutin Reunion Quartet; and Dan Weiss (drums), who in addition to leading his own trio, plays with Lee Konitz, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenon, Dave Binney and countless others. Tenor saxophonist Ole Mathisen – who is a master of microtonal playing – contributes beautifully controlled and technically dazzling playing, and serves as the perfect foil to ElSaffar on the front line. Together the band tackles this challenging music with creative aplomb.