Amir ElSaffar's Rivers of Sound Orchestra

Opus 3 Artists is excited to offer a unique new project from acclaimed trumpet player Amir ElSaffar. His Rivers of Sound Orchestra presents 17 musicians from a broad spectrum of traditions, from Iraqi maqam to American jazz. Using resonance as its governing principle, the music incorporates elements of maqam modal music of the Middle East with jazz and other contemporary musical practices to create a unique microtonal musical environment that moves beyond the notions of style and tradition into a realm of uninhibited musical communication. As pitches and rhythms become fluid, so do cultural boundaries: elements that traditionally divide musicians and genre-specific modes are re-contextualized in a fresh transcultural soundscape.

Amir ElSaffar has been described as “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” by the Chicago Tribune. A recipient of a fellowship from United States Artists in 2018 and the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, ElSaffar is an expert trumpeter with a classical background who is conversant in the language of contemporary jazz, and has also created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. Described as “an imaginative bandleader, expanding the vocabulary of the trumpet and at the same time the modern jazz ensemble,” (All About Jazz), ElSaffar is an important voice in an age of cross-cultural music making.

“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.”
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.”
Downbeat Magazine

“a towering statement of purpose—wise to many traditions, even while it remains accessible to anyone”

“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

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