STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Amina Figarova's Jazz Journey


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St. Louis jazz fans this year already have been able to hear the local debuts of several noteworthy musicians, and there's another one coming next week who's made a long journey, both physically and culturally, to get to where she is now. We're speaking of pianist and composer Amina Figarova, who will be in St. Louis with her sextet to perform a free concert this coming Thursday, February 21 for the Jazz at Holmes series at Washington University.

Figarova, 46, was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and as a young girl studied classical piano at the Baku Conservatory. She knew little about jazz until moving to the Netherlands, where she studied jazz performance at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Figarova later completed her studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and while she continued to live in the Netherlands, she and her sextet also began touring in the USA, playing major festivals in Newport, Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit.

Since releasing her first album Attraction in 1995, Figarova has put out 11 more recordings, including 2005's September Suite, a critically acclaimed extended piece written in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and 2008's Above the Clouds, which prompted Jazz Times reviewer Thomas Conrad to call her “among the most important composers to come into jazz in the new millennium."

Figarova and her husband, flautist Bart Platteau, moved from the Netherlands to NYC a couple of years ago. Her most recent album Twelve, released last year, offers her musical impressions of living in New York, delivered in a style influenced by the post-bop acoustic jazz groups of Miles Davis, Horace Silver, and Herbie Hancock. In addition to Platteau, Figarova's current group includes Ernie Hammes on trumpet, Marc Mommaas on tenor sax, Jeroen Vierdag on bass and Chris “Buckshot" Strik on drums.

In the first two video embeds, up above and just below this text, you can see a two-part video Figarova made to promote the release of Twelve, featuring musical excerpts, interviews, and in-studio footage of the recording of the songs “Sneaky Seagulls" and “Shut Eyes, Sea Waves."

Below that, there are two segments from September Suite, “Numb" and “Rage," recorded live in 2011 with a different lineup of the sextet that included Figarova, Platteau and Strik as well as saxophonist Kurt van Herck, trumpeter Nico Schepers and bassist Wiro Mahieu.

Below that are live versions of two songs from Twelve: “Shut Eyes, Sea Waves," recorded at the 2013 Winter Jazz Fest in NYC with a band including both some regulars and subs; and “NYCST," recorded in October 2012 at the Dutch Jazz & World Meeting in Amsterdam.

For more about Amina Figarova's jazz journey, check out this 2011 interview recorded for Voice of America, and her episode of NPR's “Piano Jazz" from back in 2008.

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