Amir ElSaffar & Rivers of Sound - The Other Shore - The Arts Fuse
This is the second disc from ElSaffar’s 17-piece Rivers of Sound Orchestra, and it succeeds at creating fascinating, multicultural worlds of sound that incorporate the leader’s Iraqi-American heritage with advanced Western classical and jazz concepts. The band includes players from various geographic areas. These musicians also embrace a number of instruments and have mastered a variety of musical genres as well.
The music, in some ways, feels like ’70s experiments in loosening up musical boundaries, in the mode of artists such as Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and John McLaughlin. Combining composition and improvisation, the band maneuvers through gentle musical waters, but is more than ready to take it up a notch or two when choppier passages emerge. Employing “heptatonic modes” with “microtonal intervals,” the orchestra members, nearly half of them doubling or tripling on various instruments, take the listener on an intriguingly complex journey, to a place where sounds come together in ways that could only be partially foreseen by the composer.