Just announced! Amir ElSaffar’s 17-piece Rivers of Sound Orchestra plays at NYC Winter Jazzfest on January 5. See details here.

Listen to this feature on Rivers of Sound on WBGO’s The Checkout.

Amir ElSaffar tops the Trumpeter and Arranger of the Year, Rising Star categories in Downbeat Magazine’s 2018 Critic’s poll! Check out the Feature Story on ElSaffar by Howard Mandel.

Read Chicago Tribune Critic Howard Reich’s rave review of Rivers of Sound at Chicago Symphony Center:

“one wondered how so many forms of building music — Western and non-Western scales, alternate tunings, microtonal pitches and what-not — could cohere without producing harsh and ungainly dissonance. Add to this ElSaffar’s solos and accompaniments on santur (a kind of hammered dulcimer), and listeners absorbed more sonic information than one might have thought the ear was capable of processing.

When ElSaffar produced vocal chant above all of this in “Layl” (“Night”), and elsewhere, his melismatic lines and subtly bent pitches soared above the orchestral swirl. In these passages, there was no question we were in a vast musical landscape merging Eastern and Western sensibilities with high craft and devotional intent.”

Rivers of Sound is a large ensemble of instrumentalists from Western and Middle Eastern traditions, exploring the confluences of a musical language that transcends notions of tradition and style. In performing Not Two, an original composition by Amir ElSaffar, each musician interacts with the group through both improvised and composed material to create a novel composite sound.

More Reviews of Rivers of Sound: Not Two

It is elevating to the spirit to encounter music and philosophy characterized by such warmth and amenity.” – Jordan Penney, PopMatters

“In Rivers of Sound, Mr. ElSaffar’s 17-piece ensemble, rhythm is a load-bearing vehicle, steadily carrying his compositions across land and sea. The pulse changes hands often, Mr. ElSaffar’s trumpet working in an exchange with the tabla and the guitar and the buzuq, a stringed instrument from the eastern Mediterranean. Rivers of Sound brings together virtuosos from Middle Eastern, South Asian and Western jazz traditions, and its music has a liquid quality: It’s full of momentum, but not in the way of a single moving thing. Instead, it seems to flow and spill across bounds.” – Giovanni Rusonello, The New York Times

    ★ Rivers of Sound flows in a flux of ever-shifting colors, with bold brass fanfares giving way to classically Middle Eastern sounding strings and sinuous reed melodies evolving patiently over unhurried, swinging rhythms that are accented by the dieting tonality of frame drum and dumbek…with Not Two [ElSaffar] has moved beyond building bridges; his music has become the river.” – Bill Meyer, Downbeat Magazine.

a towering statement of purpose—wise to many traditions, even while it remains accessible to anyone” – Seth Colter Walls, Pitchfork Magazine.

Amir ElSaffar Unleashes a River of Sound at Lincoln Center (New York Music Daily)

“Refrains build and fall, textured timbres churn, trance like waves swell and crest. The rivers motif is fitting — there’s something liquid about these breaking waves of sound, a liquidity to these cascading drops of simple repeating melodic fragments.”
– The National, Abu Dhabi.

For information on the Rivers of Sound Orchestra, please click here.


Check out a full list of Amir ElSaffar’s tour dates here.