Amir ElSaffar – Crisis (5 stars)

Iraqi-American musician combines maqam and jazz in transcendent album

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Amir ElSaffar – Crisis

(Pi Recordings)

Cultural hybridity animates Crisis, the outstanding new album from trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, an American of Iraqi descent. A non-hierarchical fusion of Iraqi maqam and jazz, Crisis is a work of rare beauty and power, with ElSaffar playing and singing over a bustling mix of post-bop and Arabic rhythms. Tareq Abboushi’s buzuq and Zafer Tawil’s oud add tension and bite to jazz pieces like ‘Flyover Iraq’ and delicacy to the maqam ‘Aneen (Weeping)’ and ‘Love Poem’. The solo trumpet lament ‘Taqsim Saba’ is followed by ‘El-Shaab (The Prophet)’, a driving group performance which pays oblique tribute to the Arab Spring.

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