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Amina Figarova

Amina Figarova was born in 1966 in a most unlikely place for a jazz musician, Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan on the Russian side of the Iron Curtain. Her parents encouraged her at the tender age of two years old to pursue playing the piano. As a classically trained musician, Figarova was influenced by such usual masters as Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergey Rachmaninov, and Claude Debussy, and played scores of Alexander Scriabin. But her mother and father loved jazz, and she was fortunate to be able to hear albums by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Ella Fitzgerald, items that were in short supply in Azerbaijan. She attended the Baku Conservatory, but moved to jazz studies in the Netherlands at the Rotterdam Conservatory, and eventually to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. These academic institutions fortified her skills as a player, but also inspired her blooming talent as a composer of original modern jazz music. Her writing was naturally inclined to reflect the performers she admired like Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and Michel Petrucciani.

In 1994 she recorded a debut CD of all original material, titled Attraction, and proved adept at solo piano concerts. But restless to learn more, she attended the Thelonious Monk Jazz Colony summer camp in Aspen, CO, in 1998, and by 1999 formed her first large ensemble. In the spring of 2000, Figarova was an artist in residence with Dmitri Matheny in the San Francisco Bay Area, and headed back to Rotterdam, where she has resided for the decade of the 2000s. She has worked with the likes of James Moody, Larry Coryell, Winard Harper, Nathan Davis, Denise Jannah, Carolyn Breuer, Ruth Davies, Toots Thielemans, Claudio Roditi, Hein Van De Geyn, Sami Kaneda, and New Orleans musicians vocalist Kim Prevost and guitarist Bill Solley. As an arranger, she has collaborated with jazz vocalists Jackie Ryan and Lenora Zenzalai Helm.

In Brooklyn, staying in the apartment of friends while sleeping on September 11, 2001, Figarova was proximate to the crumbling World Trade Center towers, and wrote the poignant "September Suite" in tribute to the people who were killed. Her regular working band includes such Holland-based musicians as flute player Bart Platteau; saxophonists Tom Beek and Kurt Van Herck; trumpeters Marcel Reys, Nico Schepers, or Ernie Hammes; bassist Wiro Mahieu; and drummer Chris Strik. She is included on the CD collection of musicians from Azerbaijan, Departure Point: Baku. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi
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