Jazz pianist Amina Figarova shares her “joy” at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
Amina Figarova is on the road to share the joy.
“The music I wrote, and the title, I think, says it all: joy. I wanted to put all those negative feelings to rest,” she says of her latest album, “Joy.” The acclaimed jazz pianist spent a lot of time in the South – particularly in New Orleans – while writing the album and hit the road for a tour of the same name on October 1.
“A lot of people have had a really tough time in the last two years. I mean we’ve all done it… The world is in a strange place, but I still have very positive feelings. I don’t know of where it’s coming from, I feel very, in a good way, excited about something. And I want to share that feeling with a wider audience. Every track I’ve written reflects that,” she says of her 16th album.
Figarova and her band will perform on October 8 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. It is also the date of her 31st wedding anniversary with Bart Platteau, her flautist.
“So we’re going to party in Fayetteville,” she adds happily. Along the way, they plan to travel to New Orleans again with their dog, who has a song on the latest album.
Born in Azerbaijan, Figarova was destined for the piano. As a child, she attended the Baku Academy of Music, where she studied classical piano.
“I started with classical music, of course, because at the time there were no jazz lessons for children. I come from a family of doctors and politicians, but everyone was very musical. I started playing the piano at home when I was 2,” she says. At the time, she tried to pick up notes she’d heard on the radio. “Then I I started to learn very quickly on my own, and my mother, as a psychiatrist, she didn’t want to push me. She wanted to leave me as much room as possible. And so she didn’t hire teachers for me, because she lets me be me. [Meanwhile] I was playing non-stop.”
At the age of 3, she was composing her own songs which her parents recorded with tape recorders. At the age of 6, her mother took her to the Baku Academy of Music, she says, “just to observe the exams. It is a very special music school for the most talented children – a combination of music school and regular school. And my mom wanted me to observe it first, because I’m also the only child, so she wanted me to observe everything, the environment.” At that time, Figarova says she had never even been to kindergarten. As she watched children aged 7 and up perform classical music, she kept thinking she could do the same. After hearing young Figarova play and testing her ear and rhythm, she says teachers insisted that she start studying music a year earlier than other students.
She studied to be a classical concert pianist in Baku, but while performing at the Moscow Jazz Festival in 1988, she was invited to study at the Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands. From there she landed in New York in 2010 and went on to study at Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where she met many of the musicians she still plays with today. “I call it a family that circulates between a few bassists, a few trumpeters and a few saxophonists.”
Alex Pope Norris on trumpet, her husband on flute, Wayne Escoffery on soprano and tenor sax, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Rudy Royston and Brian Richburg Jr. on drums with special appearances by Hasan Bakr on percussion and Sasha attached to the album. Masakowski on vocals. For the tour, her sextet will include Alonzo Demetrius, whom she calls “lion” and “incredible trumpeter”, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Ryan Sands on drums.
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