By Bobby Reed | Published May 2020
When downloads surpassed physical CDs in popularity, one casualty of that tectonic shift was the notion of the road-trip album. Instead of selecting a great disc to stick in a car’s glove compartment, music lovers began crafting their own playlists—or turning to satellite radio—for entertainment on long drives.
Pianist/keyboardist Amina Figarova’s album Persistence is a delightful throwback in two senses: Not only does it nod to the fusion style of an earlier era, it offers a cohesive program that could be the 43-minute soundtrack for a segment of blissful highway travel. Like any great road-trip album, the program contains enough sonic diversity to keep the listener engaged, but without any boring or jarring tracks that would tempt someone to hit the eject button.
For Persistence, Figarova recruited her band Edition 113, a group players who embrace a fusion aesthetic, merging the adventurous spirit of improvisation with the muscular power of rock. Guitarist Rez Abbasi adds spidery lines to the funk-flavored title track and smolders on the medium-tempo tune “Morning Blue.” Bart Platteau (who is the leader’s husband) provides authoritative flute lines on “Horizons,” while his work on EWI helps sculpt a lovely yet mysterious atmosphere for the ballad “Lil’ Poem.” The flute, electric guitar and keyboard conversation on “R Song” is a delight that prompts repeated spins and begs for detailed study. Agile bassist Yasushi Nakamura and go-to drummer Rudy Royston keep the proceedings grounded yet grooving.
Adding welcome coloration to the album are three vocalists, who each appear on a single track: Hip-hop artist JSWISS crafts rhymes for “I’ve Got No Time,” Paul Jost provides soaring, wordless vocals on “Horizons,” and Skye’s World sings and recites spoken-word segments on “Bliss.”
The power of this program lies partly in its questing vibe: For each track, the players have the basic route in their heads, so any band member can take an intriguing, improvisational diversion down a side road, and yet still merge back into the unified ensemble and help it arrive at the intended destination.