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Amina Figarova Sextet

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It's surprising enough that pianist Amina Figarova--a woman born in the mostly Muslim nation of Azerbaijan--would gravitate to American jazz, let alone develop such a centered, compact style of improvisation. On a series of discs going back more than a decade, she neatly twines the influences of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, but even so, I don't think anyone expected her to emerge as one of the leading jazz composers of the new century, as she's done on the two discs she released last year. Come Escape With Me (Munich) bursts with a dozen originals that actually live up to the word: her inventive, memorable tunes range from burly swagger to fragile delicacy, and her long-running Dutch septet digs into them with obvious gratitude. (She's lived in the Netherlands since 1989.) The more recent September Suite (215 Music), an album-length meditation on 9/11, is of course more somber but no less energetic. The difficulty of capturing the emotions stirred by that day has defeated several other similar projects, but Figarova taps into the darkness--"Emptyness," "Denial," and "Trying to Focus" are among the song titles--without letting it overwhelm the music. On the opening movement, "Numb," she paradoxically conveys dulled anomie with music that's sharply etched, detailed, and exquisitely sensitive. Figarova's writing impresses me beyond her command of melody and structure: her intricate arrangements for trumpet, saxes, and the panoply of flutes played by her husband, Bart Platteau, make her band sound like an outfit twice its size. This is her Chicago debut. Wed 5/3, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

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