When talent and skill collide the end result is Amina Figarova. The somewhat conceptual oriented work Twelve is ironically Figarova's 12th release and her debut on the highly respected German label In + Out. This celebratory effort places the emphasis on jazz as a global music and New York City as the musical ground zero for the International community of jazz nomads to make their pilgrimage. It would seem all the musical stars were in perfect alignment for this artistic triumph of a fresh perspective coupled with the subtle nuance of an intimate yet highly skilled and imaginative composer.
Figarova was born and raised in Baku, Azerbaijan but made her musical leap of faith by moving to the United States in 2010. While Figarova has remarked on the balance achieved in her life it is this same sense of symmetry that somehow makes its appearance throughout this most engaging release. Intimacy, organic honesty and the willingness to open her artistic soul for the world to see is why I write. Figarova's music touches me.
It is so incredibly easy for a prolific sextet to turn into a small jazz orchestra but Figarova's compositions and subsequent arrangements allow each members artistic voice to shine while remaining a cohesive ensemble never afraid of putting themselves on display in various forms. "Maria's Request" is a bass, piano and flute trio of indescribable beauty and an organic intimacy with exquisite harmonic movement as all aspects of music, life and love seem to become one. "Another Side Of The Ocean" marks one of the more conceptualized and highly personal pieces that marks where Figarova has been and where she is heading. Perhaps the most fitting tune on Twelve would be the ironic "Make It Happen" being a tune that relates to musicians and listeners alike. The "just-do-it" philosophy is the musical gauntlet thrown down by Figarova for those longing to attempt to take a bite out of the Big Apple to simply go for it.
Twelve is a deceptively subtle and highly personal release. Harmonically adventurous with every changing dynamics coupled with a deft and graceful touch find an artist with supreme confidence and not the pretentious self indulgence of an artist with the desire for the direct spotlight. Emotionally charged with bit and pieces shared from Figarova's everyday life there is a refined if not inspiring nature to this release few artists can match. Twelve is the flawless embodiment of the searching artist. Firmly grounded but with an eye towards change, musical evolution and personal growth it is clear Figarova is an artist comfortable with who she is and the direction she seems to be heading. The Amina Figarova Sextet is a mirror image of this growth and accessibility and makes for one of the years finest releases.
Tracks: NYCST; Another Side Of The Ocean; Sneaky Seagulls; Shut Eyes, Sea Waves; On The Go; Isabelle; Make It Happen; Twelve; New Birth; Morning Pace; Leila; Maria's Request.
Personnel: Amina Figarova: piano; Bart Platteau: flute, Bb flute d'amour, bass flute, ocarina; Ernie Hammes: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jerden Vierdag: bass; Chris "Buckshot" Strik: drums.