Jazz Meets World with Cultural Mixmaster & Master Trumpeter

MDC Live Arts and Rhythm Foundation present Amir ElSaffar/Two Rivers Ensemble

Miami, Feb. 15, 2018 – Miami Dade College’s (MDC) MDC Live Arts and Rhythm Foundation will co- present an evening of jazz with world twist, featuring trumpeter, santur player, vocalist and composer Amir ElSaffar/Two Rivers Ensemble at 8 p.m., on Saturday, Mar. 3, at the North Beach Bandshell.

ElSaffar will also participate in activities at several MDC campuses, including a week-long residency of master classes and a performance with MDC faculty as part of the Jazz at Wolfson Presents series at noon on Wednesday, Mar. 7, at MDC’s Wolfson Auditorium, Building 1, Room 1261 (300 N.E. Second Ave).

Hailed by The Wire as “Uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music,” ElSaffar has mastered disparate musical styles and created a singular approach to combining aspects of both. Born near Chicago to an Iraqi immigrant father and American mother, he was drawn to music at a young age, listening incessantly to records from his father’s collection, which included Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Blues Brothers soundtrack – but interestingly, no Iraqi music. It wasn’t until after earning a degree in classical trumpet from DePaul University, studying with the legendary trumpeter Bud Herseth, playing in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago as well as Chicago’s blues, jazz, and salsa clubs, and moving to New York City to play with Cecil Taylor, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa—that ElSaffar gradually found himself drawn to the musical heritage of his father’s native country.

In 2001, he funded a trip to Baghdad to find and study with the few surviving masters of the Iraqi Maqam tradition. He discovered that most had left the country and spent the next five years pursuing them across the Middle East and Europe. During this period, ElSaffar learned to speak Arabic, sing maqam, and play the santur. His main teacher was vocalist Hamid Al-Saadi, currently the only living person who has mastered the entire Baghdadi Maqam tradition.

With his new findings and skills came a wealth of creations, among them, the Two Rivers Ensemble. The sextet explores the juncture between jazz and music of the Middle East, and their 2015 release, Crisis (Pi Recordings) is a reflection on a region in turmoil and strife.  It is also a reflection of a culture’s struggle for survival, which ElSaffar’s music, as innovative as it is passionate and visceral— may aid in securing.

ElSaffar’s performance marks a continued collaboration between MDC Live Arts, whose Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Muslim World season is designed to explore the diversity of Muslim culture through the arts and challenge widespread assumptions concerning contemporary Muslim identity; and The Rhythm Foundation, whose Axis of Love series seeks to inject positivity and empathy into the global conversation through presenting instrumental, traditional and innovative sounds from the conflict zones of the Middle East and Africa.

The show also forges a partnership between MDC Live Arts and MDC’s Jazz at Wolfson Presents series is the longest continuously running jazz series in Miami-Dade County, offering free yearlong jazz concerts to students and music lovers in the community. The series was founded by jazz studies professor Dr. Michael Di Liddo, inspired by MDC’s Lunchtime Lively Arts concert series of the 1970s and in part funded by Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs. For a complete list of Jazz at Wolfson Presents concerts, please visit http://www.mdc.edu/main/jazzatwolfsonpresents. All concerts are free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Dr. Michael Di Liddo at 305-237-3930.

About Amir ElSaffar
Recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the winner of the Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition, ElSaffar is a skilled jazz trumpeter with a classical background who has created new techniques to play microtones and ornaments that are idiomatic to Arabic music but not typically heard on trumpet. He is also an acknowledged performer and purveyor of the nearly extinct classical Iraqi maqam tradition, and performs actively as a vocalist and santur player.

ElSaffar currently leads four critically-acclaimed ensembles: The 17-piece Rivers of Sound Orchestra; Two Rivers, which combines the musical languages and instrumentation of Iraqi Maqam and contemporary jazz; the Amir ElSaffar Quintet, performing ElSaffar’s microtonal compositions with standard jazz instrumentation; Safaafir, the only ensemble in the US performing and preserving the Iraqi Maqam in its traditional format; and The Alwan Ensemble, the resident ensemble of Alwan for the Arts, specializing in classical music from Egypt, the Levant, and Iraq. In addition, he has worked with jazz legend Cecil Taylor, and prominent jazz musicians such as Mark Dresser, Gerry Hemingway, Marc Ribot, Henry Grimes, and Oliver Lake. ElSaffar has appeared on numerous recordings, and has released six under his own name, Maqams of Baghdad (2005), Two Rivers (2007), Radif Suite (2010), Inana (2011), Alchemy (2013), and Crisis (2015).

WHAT:                Amir ElSaffar/ Two Rivers Ensemble

WHEN:               Saturday, Mar. 3, at 8 p.m.

WHERE:             North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave Miami Beach FL 33141

>> Click here for photos

>> Click here for video

Tickets are $20 advance / $25 day of show. To purchase, please visit http://www.rhythmfoundation.com.

About MDC Live Arts
MDC Live Arts is Miami’s most eclectic performing arts series. Created in 1990 as Cultura del Lobo, MDC Live Arts has a celebrated history of bringing extraordinary national and international performing artists to Miami. The annual series presents today’s most exciting artists and designs meaningful engagement between these artists, the students of MDC, and the greater community. MDC Live Arts seeks artists from across the globe who push boundaries and honor traditions relevant to Miami’s diverse community, and aims to offer audiences opportunities to discover new ideas, perspectives and forms of expression. For more information, please visit www.mdclivearts.org.

Ojalá/Inshallah: Wishes from The Muslim World is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program. The Building Bridges Program is the grant-making arm of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which is an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The program supports national efforts to advance relationships, increase understanding, and reduce bias between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The mission of DDFIA is to promote the study, understanding and appreciation of Muslim arts and cultures. For more information, please visit www.ddcf.org/what-we-fund/building-bridges.

The programs of MDC Live Arts are made possible with the generous support of: Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; the National Endowment for the Arts; and National Performance Network (NPN). MDC Live Arts is a Partner of the National Performance Network (NPN). Major NPN contributors include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Amal is a National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network (NPN/VAN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by MDC Live Arts in partnership with Su Teatro, MACLA and NPN/VAN.

About The Rhythm Foundation
The Rhythm Foundation, a Miami Beach-based non-profit cultural organization, is a leading presenter of world music in the US. It was founded in 1988 with the goal of increasing international awareness through live music – concerts, events and festivals by established and innovative artists from around the world. Special focus is given to those cultures connecting to South Florida audiences – music from Brazil, Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. In 2015 the City of Miami Beach awarded management of the North Beach Bandshell to the Rhythm Foundation, who are now creating exciting year-round programming at this architectural gem. For more information, please visit RhythmFoundation.com.

Axis of Love is made possible with the support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge. The Knight Arts Challenge funds the best ideas for engaging and enriching communities through the arts. Victoria Rogers, Vice President of Arts for Knight Foundation, said: “Few things can bring people together like the arts. Events like this series are a great prism for exploring our and other cultures, and for finding the threads that unite us all.”

The programs of The Rhythm Foundation are made possible with the generous support from the City of Miami Beach, the Department of Tourism and Cultural Development; the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council; Miami Beach Mayor and City Commissioners; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

MDC Live Arts Contact: Alexa Burneikis, Marketing Manager, 305-237-7733, aburneik@mdc.edu

The Rhythm Foundation Contact: Karla Arguello, Communications Director, 305-672-5202, karla@rhythmfoundation.org.

MDC Media-Only Contacts: Juan C. Mendieta, MDC Director of Communications, 305-237-7611, jmendiet@mdc.edu; Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710, sue.arrowsmith@mdc.edu, or Allison Horton, 305-237-3359, ahorton2@mdc.edu.

This and other MDC releases are available on the web at www.mdc.edu.