Amina Figarova: Twelve (2012)
Calling Amina Figarova merely a jazz impressionist does injustice to the full breadth of the pianist's vision and does not reflect the uniqueness of her artistry. That said, most of her compositions do have an impressionistic bent. The nocturnal "Shut Eyes, Sea Waves...," for instance, on Twelve (her twelfth release as a leader), uses her cascading piano and Dutch drummer Chris Strik's gentle cymbals to paint a picture of waves crashing against the shore. The salty air is almost palpable in Figarova's husband and Brussels native Bart Platteau's flute playing. Luxembourgian Ernie Hammes' flugelhorn sings a complex and soothing lullaby, while the modal sounds of Figarova's own closing solo conjure images of a rocking cradle in their rhythmicity and melodicism.
Figarova imbues her originals with her sui generis persona, making them instantly recognizable. This is due to a mixture of expressionism without atonality and unparalleled improvisational and leadership skills.
"Leila" is dedicated to her grandmother, the director of a medical institute. In addition to creating a musical portrait, utilizing the contrast between Platteau's whimsical flute and the gravity of Strik's polyphonic drums, Figarova expresses her love and esteem through her own cool pianism and tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas' reserved but intelligently crafted improvisation.
Figarova's sparse yet carefully played notes and the frontline's chorus of a languid vamp enhance the Zen atmosphere of "Morning Pace." Jeroen Vierdag's graceful and intricate bass and Hammes' introspective horn further the half-drowsy serenity of the piece.
Figarova's move to New York inspired this album, her second with the same sextet. Platteau, however, has been at her side throughout her career, while Strik has appeared on her records since 2004. Such familiarity does not undermine her superior abilities as a bandleader, as evidenced by just a single listen to the tightly swinging harmonies of "Make it Happen." Capable of coaxing the tonality of a progressive big band from only six people, bright and edgy extemporizations from Figarova and Hammes spring forth, only to melt back into it.
Figarova's style cannot be classified neatly in any traditional genre because she has forged an individual character. Her work is neither post-bop nor hard-bopnor anything else, for that matter; it is simply Figarova. Rare are the musicians about whom this can be said.
Track Listing: NYCST; Another Side of the Ocean; Sneaky Seagulls; Shut Eyes, Sea Waves...; On The Go; Isabelle; Make it Happen; Twelve; New Birth; Morning Pace; Leila; Maria's Request.
Personnel: Amina Figarova: piano; Bart Platteau: flutes; Ernie Hammes: trumpet; Marc Mommaas: tenor sax; Jeroen Vierdag: bass; Chris "Buckshot" Strik: drums.