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Album Review

Amina Figarova: Joy

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Amina Figarova: Joy
Pianist Amina Figarova released an album in 2005 that was about as far away from the theme of "joy" as could be. September Suite (Munich Records) explored the deadly events of September 11, 2001 (she was in New York at the time; she experienced it). It is an album that she called: "An Ode to Mourning striving to articulate the various stages of grief in musical terms."

In 2022 Figarova turns 180 degrees to embrace optimism and a hope for a bright future with Joy.

Born in Azerbaijan and now based in New York and New Orleans, Figarova once again displays her genius for arranging for a mid-sized ensemble, a three horn and a rhythm section sextet. On 2019's Road To the Sun (AmFi Records), perhaps her masterpiece, she enhanced her septet writing, on about half the tracks, with a string trio. It was enchanting, a top disc of the year list shoo-in.

On Joy she goes again with a (mostly) septet approach. The front line: the flute in the hands of Bart Platteau, which gives the sound a feeling of refinement; Alex Pope Norris' trumpet and flugelhorn, along with Wayne Escoffery's soprano and tenor saxophones. As always with the pianist, her group sounds bigger than a sextet. Credit Figarova's arranging mastery. Terrific soloing is heard all around, blowing organically out of the polish and shine of the well-crafted charts on the exuberant "Morning Dew," the reflective beauty of "Ruby At Play." Sasha Masakowski's dream-like vocals are featured on "October Phantasy," a recitation of her poem (included on the inside fold of the album cover) seeping softly into the arrangement with a slightly blurred, ghostly delivery.

Joy, with all compositions and arrangements coming from Amina Figarova's pen, is a magically uplifting experience. Figarova hails from Azerbaijan, and she was based in Europe for several years. Now the U.S. has her and her band and her Joy, and the country—in trying times—benefits from her consistently gorgeous contributions.

Track Listing

Joy; October Phantasy; Green Blues; Morning Dew; Ruby at Play; Suddenly Stars are Falling from the Sky; Road Ahead; Only Peace Liberates; Getting There; Muse.

Personnel

Amina Figarova: piano; Bart Platteau: flute; Alex Norris: trumpet; Wayne Escoffery: saxophone, tenor; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Rudy Royston: drums; Brian Richburg Jr: drums; Sasha Masakowski: voice / vocals; Hasan Bakr: percussion.

Additional Instrumentation

Sasha Masakowski: voice (2); Rudy Royston: drums (4, 5, 7, 8, 9); Brian Richberg Jr: drums (1, 2, 3, 6, 10); Hasan Bakr: percussion (1).

Album information

Title: Joy | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Amfi Records

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