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Amir Elsaffar - Inana (Pi Recordings, 2011)

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Amir ElSaffar is an Iraqi-American trumpeter and vocalist. He is also a skilled interpreter of Iraqi maqam, which he sings and plays on the santur. Inana builds on those concepts influenced by Middle Eastern music, and improvised jazz music. The first eight tracks of the album make up the Inana Suite, named after and inspired by the ancient Middle Eastern goddess, whom inspired some of the compositions on this album. ElSaffar is joined on this multi-cultural adventure by a group he calls The Two Rivers Ensemble, composed of highly-skilled, creative musicians: Nasheet Waitson drums, Carlo DeRosa on bass, Tareq Abboushi on buzuq and saxophonist Ole Mathisen. The music deftly combines jazz and Middle Eastern music in a unique way, finding common ground in improvisation on the opening tracks, “Damuzi's Dream" and “Venus, the Evening Star" which evoke desert landscapes with the combination of plucked instruments, trumpet and ricocheting drumwork. This becomes even more passionate in the suite that follows, “Inana's Dance" which develops in multiple parts, using spaciousness and patience which allow the music to develop organically. This natural development is also clearly stated on the lengthy and episodic “Journey to the Underworld" which reveals its mysteries slowly and evolves into an evocative suite of its own. ElSaffar's studies in both jazz and ethnic music have placed him in good stead to carve out a unique place in the current improvised music. His music and musicial concept is clearly evolving, and this is a very exciting development.

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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