Amina Figarova - piano
Bart Platteau - flutes
Ernie Hammes - trumpet
Marc Mommaas - tenorsax
Jeroen Vierdag - bass
Chris "Buckshot" Strik - drums
Tickets: $15/$10 students
Born in Baku, capitol of Azerbijan, to a high-achieving, musically appreciative family, Amina as a child enjoyed her parents' records of Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass. She was drawn to the piano at age two and commenced "special school" musical studies, which emphasized late 19th century European composition, at age six. She has recorded repertoire of Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.
She was also interested in Azerbaijan's distinctively mixed ethnic folk music. "Rhythmically there are lots of influences, including elements from African and Arabic music," she told Franz A. Matzner for an interview on AllAboutJazz.com. "It's basically kind of like in jazz, an improvisation with the scales and the lyrics."
Initially writing in commercial pop formats, Amina attended Baku Conservatory and concertized professionally while still a student. Spurred by her growing interest in improvisation, she attended the Moscow Jazz Festival in 1988. Weeks later she accepted an invitation to study classical piano and composition in the Netherlands, but was quickly dissatisfied. "Within a month I changed to the jazz program," she says, "where I stayed one year, then went to the Berklee College of Music."
At Berklee in Boston Amina foresaw her unfolding path. After recording Attraction (Bart is co-billed with her; it's their quintet) Amina was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Jazz Colony in Aspen, Colorado in 1998. Soon after, the couple began their routine of steady touring and frequent recording. They've played the Chicago, Portland, Rochester and Tri-C (Cleveland) jazz festivals, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Capetown International Jazzfestival (South Africa), Salvador Bahia Jazz Festival (Brazil), JakArt Festival (Indonesia), in Israel, the United Arab Emirates, in Mexico, Canada and throughout Europe. This year before coming to the U.S. Amina enjoyed an extended run in Luxembourg of her special project Tehora -- for which she adapted Sephardic themes for the original lyrics of Israeli-born, Vienna-raised vocalist Shlomit Butbul.
On Sketches, as on her previous albums Above the Clouds (2008), Come Escape With Me (2005), Amina and company revel in a rich and varied program. The album concentrates, though, on the central aspect of her stylistic grasp, which extends from avant-garde experiments (as in September Suite, her shocked and sad response to terrorists attacks on American soil) to multi-keyboard fusion-oriented funk (on Another Me). Always, her compositions are infused with grace, color and warmth, her solos with confident wit and her fellow musicians' contributions with passionate originality. Amina Figarova makes the most of her music. Time and again she conjures multi-faceted, entertaining and affecting mini-concertos. Since she thinks of them as humble Sketches, one wonders what she will accomplish when she sets herself to writing masterworks.
Figarova's 2010 visit to America confirms the widespread appeal of a composer-pianist-bandleader who has the potential of attaining an even higher profile and enduring, boundary-less impact.