by Jarrett Hoffman
Amir ElSaffar has had the type of musical career that you can imagine laid out as a board game: a winding path with important points along the way where he’s taken on new instruments, absorbed new genres, and crossed the globe to research musical practices more deeply.
He began as a classical trumpeter growing up in Chicago, the son of an Iraqi immigrant father and an American mother. And he has since found his way to jazz, Arabic music, composition, and Iraqi maqam, a centuries-old tradition of highly structured, semi-improvised compositions sung to Classical Arabic and colloquial Iraqi poetry.
The foremost purveyor of that tradition is Hamid Al-Saadi, who will join ElSaffar and the group Safaafir for “Journey to the Heart of the Iraqi Maqam” in Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday, January 29 at 7:30 pm as part of the Museum’s Performing Arts Series. Tickets are available online.