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Amina Figarova: September Suite

All of us have a story of our day on 9/11, but Amina Figarova’s is striking. She was visiting the United States from the Netherlands, staying with friends. She was alone in a Brooklyn apartment, asleep, when the planes hit the towers. She awakened, not realizing anything was wrong, and learned of the catastrophe when she called her husband in Rotterdam. She went out into the streets of a foreign country, and saw people who had walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, covered in dust, and others already carrying pictures.

There have been many jazz responses to the events of 9/11, but none more revelatory in their authenticity and realization than September Suite.

Figarova was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and educated at conservatories in Baku, Rotterdam and Boston (Berklee). She is a pianist, composer and arranger of astonishing freshness and depth. Her suite is homage to the victims and also an “ode to mourning.” She takes us through an extended journey of grieving expressed through poignant melodic modulations, and through somber gradations of color derived from only six instruments. “Numb,” the first movement, portrays the shifting tides of feeling in the presence of unimaginable loss. “Dawn,” toward the end, is a small ray of lyricism whispered by the flute of Bart Platteau (Figarova’s husband), an unsentimental acknowledgement that life goes on.

The players in Figarova’s sextet are yet further examples of the first-rate, fully formed musicianship that is now populating the jazz scenes of places like Holland. A second album, Come Escape With Me, was recorded during the same week in November 2004 in Amsterdam, with almost the same personnel. It is a program of 12 originals that confirms Figarova’s compositional gifts. On pieces like “Dancing in the Wind,” she makes a small ensemble sound almost as full as the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Her writing shares some of Schneider’s airy elegance and meticulous detail.

These two recordings announce an important new talent on the world jazz stage.

Originally Published