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Album Review

Although trumpeter Amir El Saffar and tenor saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh are steeped in the maqam and Middle Eastern culture of their upbringing, it is the modern creative jazz of the '60s that informs their music of now. The Radif Suite album is comprised of two eight-part suites played by a quartet, each one individually composed by the principals. "Radif" means row, so this is a collection of compositions that can theoretically be arranged in any order, and the ensemble uses a self-defined chromodal approach. But what is clear is that this music directly springs forth from the original harmelodic concept of Ornette Coleman. "Radif-E Kayhan" is comprised of many "Facets" composed by Modirzadeh, starting in a slow, solemn mood, stretching beyond a humorous chuckle, then settling into the tandem but thin unison lines reminiscent of the Gato Barbieri/Don Cherry ensemble that was a springboard from Coleman's bands of the mid-'60s. Whether bluesy, free, or fractured, the band has this style down pat. With drummer Alex Cline and bassist Mark Dresser, El Saffar's "Copper Suite" has a focus that is both soft and loud, as if conducting internal electricity. There's some counterpoint from the horns, chit-chat, and free bop, but the two horns are united in a repast of lower-key proportions until a vocal section and a "bringing it home" tag-team coda. Likely more appropriate for a concert setting, this recording does hold your attention, and makes you realize that collective improvisation with a concept behind it can be pulled off by disciples of Ornette, no matter where they come from. It's a stirring and inspired group, worthy of any accolades or praise one can muster in the creative improvised music world. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

Born: 1977 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s

Trumpet/composer Amir ElSaffar is a classically trained musician who explores both jazz and traditional Iraqi maqam music. Born in Chicago, IL, in 1977 to an Iraqi father and American mother, ElSaffar grew up listening to an eclectic mix of music that ultimately led to his studying classical music at DePaul University. Having developed an avid interest in jazz, ElSaffar competed in and won the 2001 Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition and the 2001 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Improvisation...
Full bio
Radif Suite, Amir ElSaffar
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