Amir ElSaffar and the Rivers of Sound Orchestra release “The Other Shore”
The Other Shore, Amir ElSaffar’s second album with the 17-piece Rivers of Sound Orchestra, is out now.
This album has been two years in the making. Amir ElSaffar composed the music during a residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in October 2019, and in December convened all 17 members for rehearsals in New York and a four day recording session at Sound on Sound Studios in New Jersey. Initially, the album was going to be released in April 2020, supported by a two week tour of the United States, but plans were of course canceled due to the pandemic.
“While quarantining last summer, I spent a month mixing the album remotely with the legendary sound engineer, Ron Saint Germain. We then sent the recording to Scott Hull at Masterdisk, who mastered the record. The gorgeous painting featured on the cover was created by the incomparable Amina Ahmed, whose work is also featured on the first Rivers of Sound album, Not Two.
The album will be released by the Belgian label, Outhere / Outnote Records, whose catalog features a wide range of works, from contemporary music and boundary-stretching jazz to early and traditional music.
Normally, we would support the album release with a tour, but due to the pandemic our US tour has been rescheduled to April of 2022. You can find all of the dates here.
I am grateful to everyone who contributed to making this album (their names are too many to list here, but can be found in the “thank you” section of the album liner notes), but my biggest debt of gratitude is to the members of the Rivers of Sound Orchestra, whose musicianship and sense of community form the essence of this project. None of this music would have happened without them.” -Amir ElSaffar
Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone
Tareq Abboushi, buzuq
Naseem Alatrash, cello
Fabrizio Cassol, alto saxophone
Carlo De Rosa, acoustic bass
Dena El Saffar, violin/joza
John Escreet, piano
Ole Mathisen, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Tim Moore, dumbek, naqqarat, frame drums
Miles Okazaki, guitar
JD Parran, bass saxophone, clarinet
Mohamed Saleh, oboe, English horn
Rajna Swaminathan, mridangam
Zafer Tawil, oud, nay
Nasheet Waits, drums
George Ziadeh, oud
“Combining composition and improvisation, the band maneuvers through gentle musical waters, but is more than ready to take it up a notch or two when choppier passages emerge.”
The Arts Fuse
“Imbued with passionate lyricism, this music feels both cerebral and freewheeling. Composition and improvisation play an equally important role and there’s plenty of good, hybrid sonorities for one’s listening pleasure.”
“The focus here is not jazz played with world instruments nor on a jazz band playing non-western music. Instead, the Orchestra blends techniques, timbres, and colors until the result is something novel…the sheer energy of this recording is infectious.”
Avant Music News
“Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar charted new territory in 2007 with his striking debut album Two Rivers, a rigorous and deeply convincing hybrid of Iraqi maqam and post-bop. In all of his subsequent projects he’s pursued different ways of combining disparate traditions, locating threads that belie a seeming incongruity. Rivers Of Sound is an orchestra he put together to achieve those goals, but he makes an important point in his liner note essay: “When we begin with an inherent sense of unity and interconnectedness, and musicians as individuals, not representatives of a culture, there is no longer a need to ‘build bridges.’” Indeed, this stellar cast helps ElSaffar achieve a single sound constructed from many sources. They each bring their own traditional modes from around the globe, but the novelty is gone. They make music together. The leader’s extended suite blends a dynamic palette of sounds from different regions with beguiling harmonies and timbres. The slinking polyrhythmic groove of “Transformations” is laced with an elegant post-bop horn line, shimmering vibraphone, and twangy strings, with ElSaffar delivering a haunting vocal incantation. In fact, each piece on the album swerves gently and organically between sections, as the multi-partite writing is ordered by a grand structure that I’m still wrapping my head around. In a less hierarchical culture the profound The Other Shore would be treated like a new symphonic endeavour without the upper crust baggage.”