Best of 2017 #14: Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound – “Not Two” (New Amsterdam)


The fact that Amir ElSaffar seemed to have been building to this moment makes the result no less stunning or the statement any less epic.  Where past recordings gave the impression of modern jazz and Middle Eastern musics locked in dance, a give and take of lead and follow, with Not Two, the musics are as one, as if a strong embrace led to a new degree of unity.  The trumpeter grows his Two Rivers Ensemble into the 17-strong Rivers of Sound orchestra, with the effect being that the overall sound is given a greater weight, but that the nuances can be more fully explored without straying from the guiding vision.  ElSaffar’s orchestra makes it seem like an everyday occurrence for oud and saxophones, buzuk and trumpet, and santur and cello to mingle in the same crowd and communicating in their own, unique languages while transmitting a communal meaning.  They also display a nifty talent for adding layers in a way that creates thrilling surges of intensity.  There are moments on this album that are as powerful as anything that came out in 2017.

Music from NYC.

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