Monday, November 12, 2007

Amir ElSaffar – Two Rivers (Pi Recordings, 2007)

Trumpeter and vocalist Amir ElSaffar makes his debut recording by exploring his Iraqi heritage and the intersection between Middle Eastern and American music. Joining him on this disc are Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Zaafer Tawil on violin and oud, Tareq Abboushi on percussion, Carlo DeRosa on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. The music on this disc is very patient and thoughtful, filled with exotic, yet familiar music. Highlights of the disc include “Diaspora”which has an exotic sounding saxophone solo butting up against Tawil's stringed instruments before giving way to a deep bass solo. “Mamba”opens with vocalizations before Mahanthappa meshes with bass and strings and fascinating solo from Tawil emerges. “Khash Reng” finds alto saxophone and trumpet swirling around an interesting and open melody. This was a very enjoyable and interesting disc. Music is the great healer and hopefully this disc in some small way can bring different cultures together in an understanding that will benefit all.

Muhal Richard Abrams – Vision Towards Essence (Pi Recordings, 2007)

This is a document of a solo performance by legendary pianist and AACM co-founder Abrams at the 1998 Guelph Jazz Festival. The freely improvised hour long performance (broken into three sections on the disc) is a musical experience that flows like a river, swaying at times between percussive power and impressionistic beauty. Parts One and Three use the deeply rumbling and oppressive bass notes of the piano to develop an ominous feeling. Part two features light and fast pianistic runs that sound like a spring shower falling on a tin roof. The entire performance moves gracefully and in a flowing manner and is recommended to fans of exploratory piano music.

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