All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

281

Amina Figarova in Concert, La Jolla, CA, Feb. 26, 2009

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Her solos this night were studies in contrasts between crisp, studied succinctness and beautiful, angular, spontaneous freedom.
Amina Figarova Sextet
Athenaeum Music and Arts Museum
La Jolla, California
February 26, 2009
If you can believe pianist/composer Amina Figarova—speaking to the audience after her opening tunes at the February 26, 2009 show at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Museum in La Jolla (San Diego), California—she is "...just the person who writes the notes." She credits her band with realizing her musical vision. True to an extent, but her self-effacement is reminiscent of Duke Ellington's habit of calling himself, in his band introductions, "the pianist."
Beginning with Come Escape With Me (Munich Records, 2005), Figarova and her band have produced three excellent CDs, culminating with her Above the Clouds (Munich Records, 2008), with her masterpiece, September Suite (Munich Records, 2005), sandwiched between.
Figarova's—and her band's—approach always seems, on record, a compelling mix of conservatory/concert hall refinement and wee hours jazz club grit. This particular show made more of that contrast. The Athenaeum, an architectually attractive, near-century-old library in the trendy downtown La Jolla Village, has class and refinement written all over it. But dark alleys lurk in that part of town (Raymond Chandler wrote not too far from here), and the sound this night leaned in that direction, due in part to a sense of abandon and adventure that seemed to bubble up out of the ensemble, and also—not in small part—due to the wonderful addition of tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas to group.

Mommaas' presence seemed to push the music in an adventurous and avant direction, whether it was in a solo-trading rumble with trumpeter Ernie Hamms on "Chicago Split" or his smolderingly introspective turn on "Above the Clouds."

The band features a powerhouse drive train in drummer Chris "Buckshot" Stik and bassist Jeroen Vierdag, both of whom add a muscular, streetwise horsepower to Figarova's often elegant ideas, while flutist Bart Platteau injects a contrastingly cool, silky buoyancy to the sound.

Figarova was classically trained in her native Aberzabien but succumbed to the bite of the improvisational jazz bug. She has an Ellingtonian "band as her instrument" approach to her artistry, but like the Maestro, she is an enormously gifted, in-the-moment pianist. Her solos this night were studies in contrasts between crisp, studied succinctness and beautiful, angular, spontaneous freedom.

The gorgeous, high-energy set was highlighted by a three-tune medley from September Suite, Figarova's heartfelt response to the 9/11 tragedy. The horrified ranting of "Rage," the frenetically searching "Trying to Focus" and a lost and deeply melancholy "When the Lights Go Down," which showcased Figarova's deft and eloquent piano touch, were a gripping aural experience, evocative of the feelings generated on the dark day early in the century.

Figarova and her band are, on CD, a consistently exciting, top-level jazz group. They pushed things up yet another notch this evening at the the Athenaeum. One can imagine the scene from the street: the walls of the gracious Spanish Renaissance-style architecture—a stone's throw from the ocean surging against the rocks in the scenic La Jolla Cove—expanding and contracting with the tidal forces of the Figarovian energy this night. But I wouldn't know. I was lucky enough to be inside, listening.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Whotsot

Whotsot

Amina Figarova
Sketches

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Read more articles
Blue Whisper

Blue Whisper

In + Out Records
2016

buy
Twelve

Twelve

In + Out Records
2012

buy
 

Sketches

Munich Records
2010

buy
 

Above the Clouds

Munich Records
2009

buy
Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds

Munich Records
2008

buy
Come Escape with Me

Come Escape with Me

Munich Records
2005

buy

Related Articles

Read The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater Live Reviews
The Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra at Greer Cabaret Theater
by Mackenzie Horne
Published: November 15, 2018
Read Enjoy Jazz 2018 Live Reviews
Enjoy Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Jazz for all Ages Live Reviews
Jazz for all Ages
by Martin McFie
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Baku Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Baku Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Moldejazz 2018 Live Reviews
Moldejazz 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: November 10, 2018
Read "Istanbul Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Istanbul Jazz Festival 2018
by Luke Seabright
Published: July 12, 2018
Read "Edgefest 2018: The Chicago Connection" Live Reviews Edgefest 2018: The Chicago Connection
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 2, 2018
Read "Georg Breinschmid at Hong Kong City Hall" Live Reviews Georg Breinschmid at Hong Kong City Hall
by Rob Garratt
Published: August 20, 2018