With Sipiagin are Dave Holland, double bass; Antonio Sanchez, drums and percussion; Seamus Blake, saxophone; and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, acoustic and electric pianos.
“Around the Bend” is an ambient, free-flowing piece. All five players get moments in the spotlight, but it’s their cohesion as a unit that carries the overall piece. Rubalcaba’s electric piano is one part Chick Corea, one part Eumir Deodato and one part Michael Bluestein. However, Sanchez nearly steals the show during the keyboard solo. Sipiagin and Blake blend beautifully during the melodic passages, mixing overlapping phrases with unison.
“End of …” sets the listener up. It begins slowly, quietly and about two minutes in, it stops. The pause is brief, as the musicians kick it into high gear. Trumpet and tenor take the art of call and response and turn it into an all-out duel. The horns then take a break, stepping back for piano, bass and drums to engage in their own battle royal. There’s one extended stretch where all three instruments appear to be “the” solo instrument with the other two providing accompaniment. The end of the song is highlighted by the flaring horns.
Sipiagin was born on June 11, 1967, in Yaroslavi, Russia, a city 150 miles from Moscow and home to one of Russia’s most famous opera singers, Leonid Sobinov, who is Sipiagin’s great-uncle. At 12, Sipiagin began playing in a children’s orchestra. After entering a local music college at 15, he was introduced to and inspired by what few, and rare, tape recordings available in Russia of bebop and other jazz music. That led to further study in Moscow, including classical training, pop gigs and recording sessions. As a professional, Sipiagin has performed or recording with an array of jazz and non-jazz artists. Among them are Gil Evans Band, Michael Brecker, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Aaron Neville, Elvis Costello, Michael Franks, David Sanborn, Phil Ramone, Dave Holland and the Mingus Big Band.
From Reality and Back is Sipiagin’s 13th release as a leader and his first on 5Passion, which is Rubalcaba’s label.
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor
Friday, 24 January 2014
Alex Sipiagin, From Reality and Back (2013, 5Passion). Russian-born and trained trumpeter Alex Sipiagin has been a busy contributor to the New York scene since emigrating about 20 years ago, most notably working in the Mingus and Dave Holland Big Bands in addition to leading his own ensembles and 13 recording sessions. From Reality and Back marks his debut on Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s 5Passion label, the great Cuban pianist a long-time cohort who holds down the keys for this recording. Employer Dave Holland on bass, another long-term pal Seamus Blake on saxophones, and accomplished drummer Antonio Sanchez fill out the quintet. Aside from one cover (Pat Metheny’s “Son, uvedeny posle”), the disk is filled with 7 originals from Sipiagin, inspired by his travels, “real and virtual.”
Throughout, Sipiagin’s affinity for big band charts shines, as the ensemble fills the disc with a rich, expansive sound that belies a mere five musicians. “Around the Bend” suggests the anticipation of excitement, Rubalcaba’s electric piano weaving a flying carpet which Sipiagin, then Blake, ride through puffy clouds of glorious harmonies. Sanchez and Holland maintain a busy but compatible pulse, the bassist in particular providing an essential backdrop to Rubalcaba’s bubbling solo amidst little sonic surprises from Sanchez. Holland’s steady vamp and Rubalcaba’s delicate explorations distinguish “With the Tide,” while the horn harmonies convey a cool, majestic mood on the title track. “End Of…” creates a sense of danger via Sanchez’ tumbling, jaggedy percussion, Holland’s deep undercurrent, and Rubalcaba’s dark thundering chords, yet the horns offer more intrigue than fear, Sipiagin’s slippery squeals and Blake’s acrobatic figures pushing back and forth — mostly ahead into the unknown. Holland again uses a melodic vamp to launch “Here and Now” and to set an underlying ominous tone to the orchestral “Chain Reaction.” Acapella horns introduce the closing “Maze,” a playground for Sipiagin’s flexible trumpet, while Holland solos through the maze with conviction–he know where he’s going, even if we don’t. The Metheny track is quite elegant, with gentle horn commentaries, one after the other and in duo, over a strong but laid-back bassline that has the final word.
One hopes that Alex Sipiagin will continue such travelogues, particularly with this compelling group of tour guides.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Alex Sipiagin: From Reality And Back (2013)
From Reality And Back comes off as notable before a note of music ever reaches the ears. In fact, this album presents itself as a bit of a jazz PR dream: bassist Dave Holland makes a rare sideman appearance here, guitarist Pat Metheny contributed an original written strictly for this project (“Son, Uvedeny Posle”), and the rest of the band is rounded out by A-listers like pianistGonzalo Rubalcaba, whose label—5passion—serves as the record’s home. After hearing all of that, it’s tempting to say that trumpeter Alex Sipiagin is supremely lucky, but luck has little to do with this album’s merits; better—or more accurate—to say that Sipiagin is skilled, motivated, talented and determined.
The Russian-born, Long Island-based Sipiagin is one of the most consistently creative trumpet forces on the scene today, but that’s not news to most people who closely follow this art form. He’s cemented his reputation as one of the best with a string of probing leader dates on the Criss Cross label, a stint with the late, great Michael Brecker, a thirteen-years-and-counting association with Holland and his band(s), and work with the Mingus Big Band. From Reality And Back is merely his latest foray into the great wide open, but words like “merely” downplay the significance of this outing; and make no mistake about it…this one is significant.
Sipiagin spreads a wealth of musical ideas across eight tracks, creating music that’s alternately edgy and clean cut, focused and far-reaching, and flexible and tight; the rhythm tandem of Holland and the indefatigable Antonio Sanchez on drums helps to rectify that last pair of opposing ideals, but everybody truly contributes to the broad scope of this record from the outset: Rubalcaba’s electric piano creates the mood on the album-opening “Around The Bend,” which balances its askance structure atop Holland’s bass lines. Sanchez constantly twists and tweaks the rhythmic tides that he creates, and saxophonist Seamus Blake matches Sipiagin in the creativity department. Together, the two horn men run in stride, dovetail their lines, and take inspirational cues from all parties at play; they make for a formidable front line here and everywhere else.
A list of highlights would have to include the brilliantly driven “End Of…” and Sipiagin’s head-turner-of-a-solo on “With The Tide,” but such lists are pointless when everything on a record could make the cut; not a weak spot can be found on From Reality And Back.
Track Listing: Around The Bend; With The Tide; From Reality And Back; End Of…; Here And Now; Chain Reaction; Son, Uvedny Posle; The Maze.
Personnel: Alex Sipiagin: trumpet; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano; Dave Holland: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums.
ALEX SIPIAGIN/From Reality and Back: The trumpeter with long stays with Michael Brecker and Dave Holland on his resume comes in with a new set that recalls the spirit of the jazz on Polydor around the time the original Return to Forever was hanging around the label and charting new courses. With Holland being the sidekick this time and and Pat Metheny coming in with a song just for this set, Sipiagin makes the most of all of it. If Joe Farrell samples from that era with these cats are powering hit records today, you are well advised to check out this new version of that sound. Jazz with a progressive and adventurous edge that knows well how to schneid. Check it out.
I lose count of the many recordings that are graced by the presence of trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. Over the past decade, he’s released 10 as a leader on Criss Cross (not to forget 2 recordings with OPUS 5) plus several more on other labels. As a sideman, he’s worked and recorded with Conrad Herwig, Dave Holland, the Mingus Big Band/Dynasty/Orchestra and many others. His new CD, “From Reality and Back” appears on Gonzalo Rubalcaba‘s 5 Passion label. He’s gathered quite a unit, with the head of the label on acoustic and electric pianos, Mr. Holland (bass, of course), Seamus Blake(tenor saxophone) and Antonio Sanchez (drums), all leaders in their own right. The program features 7 Sipiagin originals plus a new piece from Pat Metheny composed specifically for this project. The Metheny piece “Dream Seen Later“, is a lovely ballad on which Blake and Sipiagin share the melody while the rhythm section rises and falls gently beneath them. Sipiagin’s solo is, by turns, emotionally strong and contemplative while Blake plays a bluesy solo that shows great restraint. The title track opens with a quiet solo piano melody – when the rest of the band enters, the melody line features a smart arrangement where the saxophone and trumpet pay in unison and then split in a call-and-response only to come back together. The song has the feel of a mid-1960s Herbie Hancock composition. The musicians really dig into “End Of…” with Rubalcaba, Sanchez and Holland in the driver’s seat. Sipiagin and Blake push back against that rush of rhythm and the tension created is irresistible.
Holland strums the intro to “With The Tide“, Sanchez dancing between his cymbals and Sipiagin creates a smart melodic line that moves in and around the rhythms. Rubalcaba’s solo is winsome and reflective even as the drummer stokes the fire beneath him. The pianist steps back and plays a dreamy accompaniment to the trumpet and saxophone solos. Holland’s thick tones work well with Sanchez’s busy percussion, producing a feeling of buoyancy. The intertwining of trumpet and saxophone at the onset of “The Maze“paints an aural picture of someone scurrying about trying not to get stuck. As the trumpet solo begins, the tension of the opening resolves and the music dances forward.
Theres a feeling of relaxed urgency on “From Reality and Back“; that’s not to say there is no fire in this music. Alex Sipiagin and his talented cohorts understand how to create excitement without overplaying and without flash. They can and do play with great stye and grace – you’ll hear something new each time you sit down and pay attention. For more information, go to www.alexsipiagin.com.