For 20 years, pianist Amina Figarova led a series of bracing and accomplished instrumental quintets and sextets. Those were largely acoustic groups that featured undersung horn players such as tenor saxophonist Marc Momaas and flutist Bart Platteau, who is Figarova’s husband. On her latest CD, Persistence (AmFi Records), the Azerbaijan-born New Yorker has both slimmed down and muscled up her band, Edition 113. Rhodes and Rez Abbasi‘s electric guitar often join Platteau on the front line and the thump and crackle of Rudy Royston‘s drums, prominent in the mix, adds an extra jolt of power.
It’s there right from the title track, which spotlights a lemony guitar solo and Figarova skywriting on a Nord synth. JSWISS adds yet another color, his verse moving through the pushy rush of “I’ve Got No Time” like an impatient pedestrian on a crowded New York sidewalk. The rapper is one of the three voices heard on Persistence, joining poet Skye’s World (on the concluding “Bliss”) and singer Paul Jost, whose wordless vocalise doubling Platteau’s flute on the Brazilian-tinged “Horizons” recalls Flora Purim’s aerial ballets with Joe Farrell in the first Return to Forever band. Figarova also dips into the shimmering textures of neo-soul on “Lil’ Poem,” a languid, Saturday-night mood piece with a nimble bassline by Yasushi Nakamura that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Robert Glasper record–or on Herbie Hancock’s “Sunlight.”
Throughout “Persistence” you hear an artist determined to experiment with instrumental and vocal colors while not abandoning the bedrock elements of her compositional voice: strong melodies, confidently handled compound meters and, above all, an optimistic energy.
And that’s just the kind of music we could use right now.
Amina Figarova: Persistence
Bart Platteau – flute
Amina Figarova – piano, compositions
Rez Abbasi – guitar
Yasushi Nakamura – bass
Rudy Royston – drums
JSWISS – rapper
Paul Jost – voice
Skye’s World – voice and poetry