'Road to the Sun'
On "Road to the Sun," pianist Amina Figarova explores the possibilities of a little big band, at times combined with a string trio. Born in Azerbaijan, Figarova began as a classical pianist. After studying jazz in Holland, she moved to the United States and studied at Berklee College of Music. Two decades ago, she worked with a big band at the Thelonious Monk Institute, and ever since then she has sought ways to simulate a big band's power in her smaller ensemble. Figarova has succeeded, composing and arranging every tune on this musical tour de force.
Although the arrangements are constructed around her piano, Figarova writes beautifully for horns and strings. Her voicings and punctuation are especially strong on the opening cut, "All We Dance." The string parts on "Fall Eclipse" are so gorgeous they could easily be adapted to a classical piece. Of course, these arrangements would be nothing without strong compositional foundations, and Figarova supplies them throughout. My favorite -- again, the strings -- is the perfectly titled "Explorations."