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Amina Figarovaan Azerbaijan-born and now Rotterdam-based artistboasts a graceful and erudite piano style, but her second instrument is her band. She composes and arranges adeptly for her "three horn front line and a rhythm section" ensemble on Above the Clouds, using the same instrumental make-up that she employed in her marvelous September Suite (Munich Records, 2005), the artist's response to the tragedy of 9/11, and Come Escape With Me (Munich Records, 2005).
Above the Clouds continues with the post-bop sound established by Figarova on the earlier sextet recordings. Her piano touch is light and fluid, in the mode of Herbie Hancock; but her "second instrument" approach is reminiscenton a smaller scaleof what Maria Schneider has done on Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007) and Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004)using her band to tell her stories, creating venues for top-level soloing.
The somewhat unusual use of flute in the front linealongside trumpet and tenor saxlightens the harmonies, giving them an aspect of floating above often swinging, sometimes world-music rhythms.
The palette broadens on two of Figarova's tunes"Sailing Through The Icy Waters" and "River of Mountains"with the addition of trombone and alto sax, enriching the ensemble the sound, and pointing toward her next project, an evocation of Henry Hudson's North American voyage of discovery four hundred years ago.
A first rate jazz pianist, Amina Figarovawith September Suite, Come Escape With Me and now the excellent Above the Cloudsis staking out her ground as a top level composer/arranger.
Track Listing: "A" Dance; Ernie's Song; Above the Clouds; Sharp Corners; Bedtime Story; Nico's Dream; Summer Rain; Sailing Through The Icy Waters; River of Mountains; Blue Wonder; Chicago Split; Reminising.
Personnel: Amina Figarova: piano; Bart Platteau: B flat-flute, Native American flute; Ernie Hammes: trumpet, flugelhorn (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12); Nico Schepers: trumpet, flugelhorn (4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11); Kurt van Herck: tenor and soprano saxophones; Jeroen Vierdag: bass; Chris "Buckshot" Strik: drums; Tineke Postma: alto saxophone (8, 9); Louk Boudesein: trombone (8, 9).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.