Thursday, May 19, 2016

Amina Figarova: Blue Whisper

In + Out Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Blue Whisper

Pianist/composer Amina Figarova was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she initially studied to become a classical artist. She switched to jazz and came to the States, where she studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. During that time she met her future husband, flutist Bart Platteau, who also is featured on this release.

Figarova has recorded about a dozen albums. She’s an outstanding composer and keyboardist, and she always surrounds herself with top-notch musicians. As a result of the early training, her style goes beyond straight-ahead jazz and into post-bop, classical and impressionistic; as time has passed, the latter forms have become more prominent. Such is the case with this album.

Almost a dozen artists contributed to these 10 songs; only Figarova and Platteau are constant throughout. She often bases her music as “responses to social turmoil, personalities encountered and transitions of life.” The results are intense, at times complex melodies, often balladic in tempo. It often doesn’t swing, and seldom excites the listener ... but that’s not to say it isn’t great music.

Figarova’s compositions are classically founded and played: quite sophisticated, harmonious stuff. Several of the charts — notably “Pictures” and “The Travelers” — were commissioned by Lincoln Center, for its New Jazz Standards series. 

The performance feature excellent ensemble lines and instrumental solo work. One tune (“Hewa”) has vocal passages sung in Swahili; Figarova’s many interests include that country’s customs, music and people.

This album may not swing like some of her previous work, but it’s deeply moving music: certainly worth your attention.

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