Azerbaijan-born, globe-trotting composer and pianist Amina Figarova introduces ten colorful, compelling new compositions performed by her touring sextet plus guests on her thirteenth album, Blue Whisper.
Figarova’s deeply personal, highly evocative responses to social turmoil, distinctive personalities she has encountered, and universal transitions of life inform the music on Blue Whisper. Moods range from the haunting beauty of the titular track “Blue Whisper” as well as “Moonrise” and “Hewa” (featuring lyrics in Swahili by Sarah Elizabeth Charles) to the straight-ahead momentum of “Moving Forward,” “The Hustler,” and “The Traveler” to the sophisticated playfulness of “Pictures,” “Marians,” and “Juno.” In “Hear My Voice,” over a martial beat and sorrowful, resolute horn choir, an eight-year-old girl earnestly urges an end to violence worldwide and, with laughter, a request to “Let kids be kids.”
Throughout all the tracks, Figarova’s classically founded touch, her lilting melodies, luminous harmonies, often understated yet always propulsive rhythms, and star soloists come together with immaculate sophistication. Trumpeters Ernie Hammes and Alex Pope Norris, saxophonists Wayne Escoffery and Marc Mommaas, bassists Luques Curtis and Yasushi Nakamura, drummer Jason Brown, flutist Bart Platteau (Figarova’s partner and husband of nearly twenty-five years), and electric guitarist Anthony Wilson (on “Pictures”) are featured advantageously in spontaneous, creative engagement with her compositional themes and intentions.
Figarova was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and as a child studied to be a classical concert pianist. In the late 1980s, she entered Rotterdam Conservatory to pursue jazz, coming to the United States in 1989 to complete her formal education at Boston’s Berklee College of Music (where she met the Belgian-born Platteau, a fellow student). In 1998, they were invited to the Thelonious Monk Institute’s summer jazz colony in Aspen, Colorado and after more than a decade of bookings in major U.S. jazz clubs, concert halls, and festivals, the couple gained legal immigrant status in 2014. They currently live in Manhattan, New York City, and tour constantly.
The compositions “Pictures” and “The Traveler” were commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center for its 2014–2015 New Jazz Standards series.
The lovely Azerbaijani pianist is as well regarded for her rich small-ensemble compositions as she is for her sparkling work at the keyboard.
Figarova is among the most important composers to come into jazz in the new millennium.