CD review

Amina Figarova Edition 113 – “Persistence”

Amina Figarova Edition 113 – Persistence
(AmFi Records BACD015. CD review by Alison Bentley)

“I love the energy and the feel of the city.” Azerbaijani-born pianist and composer Amina Figarova settled in Harlem in 2014. Her electric US band Edition 113 is named for the city block where she and Belgian-born flautist Bart Platteau live. After 20 years of touring her acoustic band, this new album seems to celebrate New York with a mix of modern jazz, hip hop, funk – and Figarova’s distinctive, thoughtful writing.

The title track Persistence seizes you with its ferocious rhythmic energy, but has all the intricate subtlety of composition you expect from Figarova. The chords and flute-led theme twist and turn like birds on air currents, flying on the fast funky groove (Yasushi Nakamura‘s bass and Rudy Royston’s drums). The gusts lull for Figarova’s effervescent keyboard solo, reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s keytar sound. The groove returns with a powerful drum solo that you want to jump right into. I’ve Got No Time reworks a track from her 2019 Road to the Sun album, adding cool rap from JSWISS: “…my energy tank is in red I could do without the blues – that’s the city…”

Glasper-like chords race round a Mobius curve, the jazz-rock groove reminiscent of In a Silent Way. Guitar Rez Abbasi and flute dart in rushes of notes. The drum solo ends the track with taut skill and the sense of urgency unstinted. In the ballad Lil’ Poem tremolo keyboard chords melt together with flute, which sounds as if it’s played through a vocoder, in elastic phrases where time seems fluid. The flute catches fire as it leads into the expressive guitar solo, full of liquid staccato notes. Figarova solos on piano, her beautifully-articulated technique a reminder of her classical background, always expressing a feeling.

Morning Blue lopes in slow funk, the slight distortion round the guitar notes like a blue flame in Abbasi’s yearning solo. The keyboard has lightly skipping notes, bringing out the full meaning of each chord. R Song (named for Abbasi on his birthday) is fabulously funky, with a groove from Royston and Nakamura that brings a smile to the face. It leans towards M-Base, but is more subtle and supple, and takes on a Latin inflection with flute/guitar counter melodies.

Horizons has an open, ecstatic feel; the diaphanous chords, and instrumentation with flute and wordless vocal (Paul Jost) recalls Toninho Horta. The drums crackle and thunder through the loosely Latin 5 feel. Bliss is slowly beautiful, with dreamy vocalising from Skye’s World, though perhaps his spoken lines sound a little high in the mix for the blissful mood. Figarova’s keyboard solo is very lovely – some Hancock in the style, but with ever-surprising chords.

“…there is something about the city,” Figarova told one interviewer. “There is a crazy dedication with the musicians who live here. It’s inspiring.” This is a very fine album indeed, taking Figarova’s distinctive music in a new direction. It creates a musical city of the mind, peopled with superb musicians.

LINK: Amina  Figarova’s website

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