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Alchemy by Amir ElSaffar
Released: Oct 2013
Label: Pi Recordings
The trumpeter's experimental side meets up with his world-jazz research on this subtle, adventurous recording. The first three tracks employ ancient Sumerian and Babylonian modes (which ElSaffar studied while living in Egypt and Lebanon). Tracks 3-7 are derived from ElSaffar's "Alchemy Suite," in which the piano is tuned regularly, but paired with instruments played in microtonal fashion. Often the search for new chord changes results in idiosyncratic intensity, but there's a convivial, boppish energy in this music, making it feel at once like a social invitation and a personal statement.
Seth Colter Walls