Amina Figarova – Sketches – Munich Records

by | Sep 10, 2010 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Amina Figarova – Sketches – Munich Records BMCD 507, 78:19 *****:

(Amina Figarova – piano; Ernie Hammes – trumpet, flugelhorn; Marc Mommaas – tenor saxophone; Bart Platteau – flute, B flat flute d’Amor; Jeroen Vierdag – bass; Chris “Buckshot” Strik – drums)

For the longest time, American jazz was a robust export to Western and Eastern Europe. In many cases, jazz artists from the States were able to earn a living abroad, and attain celebrity. In the new millennium the pattern has been reversed, marked by an influx of classically trained, overseas jazz practitioners.

Among this emigration is pianist, composer and arranger, Amina Figarova. Born in Azerbaijan, she began studying classical piano at an early age. Starting with a traditional curriculum at the Baku Conservatory, an inevitable transition to jazz studies at the Rotterdam Conservatory and the Berklee School of Music refined her jazz proclivities. A seasoned veteran with twelve recordings, Figarova has performed around the world, in her own group, and has played with Larry Coryell, Claudio Roditi, and James Moody.

Sketches is a musical travelogue, comprised of thirteen original compositions. Arranged for sextet, the tracks are meticulous in thematic cultivation.  The opening song, “Four Steps to…” establishes the innovative framework with a textured arrangement.  Elegant colorful piano runs flow into subtle, melodious trumpet, flue and saxophone colorations. The compositions give voice to the accompanying solos. “Caribou Crossing”, starts with a classical introduction, then leads into a blended chorus of horn and woodwind. Bart Platteau (executive producer and Figarova’s husband), lends a breezy, lyrical expression to a solo. The album features colorful, inspired flute work.  A moody change of pace on “Back in New Orleans” shines a light on bassist Jeroen Vierdig, while “Breakfast for the Elephant” and the bop tempo “Unacceptable” give voice to Ernie Hammes’  deft and energetic trumpet flourishes. Drummer Chris Strik is cohesive, unifying the rhythm section, stepping out of the background with a spirited solo on “Flight N”. Marc Mommaas has a variety of solos, raucous (“Sketches”), and spontaneous (“Look at That”).

The assorted styles underline the creativity and adroit touch of Figarova. She is capable of inserting the precise accents that expand the scope and vitality of the pieces. “WHOTSHOT” utilizes sudden tempo breaks to amplify transitions. “Train to Rotterdam” intones a lithe sensibility, and “Happy Hour” frames the ensemble in a relaxed Latin-tinged fusion. This is a diverse exploration of modern jazz, consummated with bravado and expertise.

TrackList: Four Steps to…; Unacceptable; Sketches; Caribou Crossing; Breakfast for the Elephant; WHOTSHOT; Back in New Orleans; On the Road; Flight N; Look at That; Train to Rotterdam; Happy Hour; Your Room.

— Robbie Gerson

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