Friday, August 24, 2012

Amina Figarova: Twelve

In+Out Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Twelve

Amina Figarova, born in Baku, Azerbaijan, was playing piano and composing at a very early age. Her initial training was classical, as with many beginners, but because her parents were jazz fans, she also was exposed to icons such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson. After schooling at the Baku Conservatory, jazz became her primary interest; it subsequently dominated her advanced studies at Rotterdam Conservatory and Boston’s Berklee College of Music. 

Figarova played extensively at festivals and concerts around the world with her groups, but she didn’t record her first CD (Attraction) until 1994. This new album is, aptly, her 12th release, and the 12 tracks are her own compositions. They’re based on places she has visited or resided, events that have been part of her life, or individuals she has known or worked with. 

The majority of her tunes can be categorized as tone-poems; balladic tempos are the norm, and the harmonic lines are relatively modern. The title tune resonates with December — her birth month — the release of this album, and the 12/8 meter used in the composition. In another composition, flavored by a beach-side picnic with her husband (flautist Bart Platteau), “Sneaky Seagulls” attempt to snatch bits of food from their table; the mood shifts to a happy, up-tempo format. 

All her songs make the listener a part of the interesting, and full, life that she has lived.

Figarova’s sextet has been a constant throughout her musical career. Platteau is an outstanding artist and one of most tasteful masters of that instrument I’ve ever heard. As for the rest, Ernie Hammes (trumpet and flugelhorn), Marc Mommaas (tenor and soprano saxes), Jerden Vieroad (bass) and Chris Strik (drums) have been key elements in most of her groups for years, and their talents meld wonderfully. 

Figarova and her group are at the top level of today’s jazz world, and they produce some of the most interesting music you’ll ever hear. This is a must-have album.

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