Trumpet/composer Amir ElSaffar is a classically trained musician who explores both jazz and traditional Iraqi maqam music.
Born in Chicago, IL, in 1977 to an Iraqi father and American mother, ElSaffar grew up listening to an eclectic mix of music that ultimately led to his studying classical music at DePaul University. Having developed an avid interest in jazz, ElSaffar competed in and won the 2001 Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition and the 2001 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Improvisation Competition. A year later, a trip to Baghdad brought ElSaffar into contact with masters of the traditional Iraqi maqam style of music as well as the santoor -- a type of hammered dulcimer -- which he learned how to play. Leaving Iraq before the war began in 2003, ElSaffar began incorporating Iraqi music into his jazz trumpet playing and jazz compositions. He released his debut album, Two Rivers, on Pi Recordings in 2007. ElSaffar returned with his long suite Inana in 2011 using the Two Rivers ensemble, which brought everyone but Rudresh Mahanthappa back. He was replaced by tenor saxophopnist Olie Mathisen. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi