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Amina Figarova: Blue Whisper

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On Blue Whisper, her 13th recording as a leader, pianist-composer Amina Figarova mingles rhythmic strength with ardent poignancy. These 10 tracks, all composed and arranged by Figarova, are coaxed into being by a subtly shifting cast of musicians, all of whom respond with zeal to the earnest emotional force governing their bandleader’s sensibility.

Blue Whisper is at its most powerful when Figarova calls upon her natural sense of musical empathy. The title track builds on a haunting melodic figure from Figarova’s piano, undergirding rueful tenor and soprano solos from saxophonist Wayne Escoffery. Bassist Yasushi Nakamura’s swooning arco intro sets the scene for the stately “Moonrise,” with its plangent flugelhorn statements from Ernie Hammes. “Hear My Voice” is a disarmingly straightforward anti-violence protest anthem, Jason Brown’s rolling military-style drums backing bluntly effective spoken-word recitations from young Salhiya Bilal Tumba and Shamiyl Bilal Tumba. The Swahili sounds of another guest vocalist, Sarah Elizabeth Charles, grant “Hewa” a refined purity, the horns joining Charles’ voice to build a swelling ambience extended by a nimble yet sensitive tenor saxophone solo from Marc Mommaas.

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