MIRAGES Liner Notes (Release February 1, 2009) by Ted Panken - Part 2
4/24/2014 1:22:33 AM - (cont'd)

A friend since ‘80s conservatory days, who emigrated to New York with Sipiagin in 1991, bassist Boris Kozlov is one of the major forces on his instrument. “Boris’ sound is so clear, every note is so beautiful,” Sipiagin says. “He’s always there to serve the music, and doesn’t care about soloing on every song.”

    “For a lot of these songs, I really hear his groove,” Sipiagin says, referring to drummer Johnathan Blake, a thirtyish New York master with his own manner of articulating odd-metered rhythms with swing and thrust. “He also plays with tremendous warmth.”

    That feeling comes through on both versions of “One For Mike,” take one of which opens and take two of which concludes the proceedings. Its subject, of course, is the late Michael Brecker, with whose sextet and quindectet Sipiagin toured several times in Europe and Japan between 2003 and 2005.

    “It reflects my experience on the first tune I played on my first gig with the sextet,” Sipiagin says of the surging line. “Michael soloed first, and played so well that I didn’t know how I was going to follow it. It was almost like having an electric shock for ten minutes, as though I’d become another person. The tune came to me like little echoes of Michael’s phrases.”

    Born and raised in  Yaroslavl, a four-hour drive from Moscow, where he attended conservatory before moving to the States at 22, Sipiagin is never far from his Russian roots, which he reflects upon in “Mirages,” a Mingusian ballad with an ambiguous harmonic structure and an achingly beautiful melody, which Sipiagin articulates on flugelhorn.

    “When I go to Russia, I don’t want to see the reality there, so I look for good things and try to pretend it’s the way it was when I was a kid,” he says. “Otherwise, I get depressed very quickly. I wrote this tune in my hotel room on a rainy day in Moscow when everything was dark, and I tried to remember good and bright moments of my early life as much as possible. As on ‘One for Mike,’ the tune has several different sections, with a solo section that allows everyone who blows to solo on different changes in those different sections. My first solo is more passionate and in 5/4, then we relax to 6/8 for Mulgrew’s solo, which gradually builds up for Seamus’ solo.”

    A tennis obsessive, Sipiagin wrote “Live Score” during a tour of Japan, where, he relates, “a Japanese friend loaned me his cell phone so I could see the finals of Wimbledon live.” It’s an original 16-bar line “with a blues mentality” in which the trick is to navigate interlocking grooves that first present themselves as different metric signatures within the form. The leader, Miller, and Blake do this with a grace and panache worthy of tennis great Roderick Federer, whom Sipiagin admires as “a logical sportsman.”

    The Levitin in “Levitin’s Kingdom” is a Yaroslavl friend, once a trumpeter, who made his fortune as a manufacturer of billiard cues and tables, which “he makes with artist quality.” “He has a huge old building in my home town, and every time I come to Russia, he completely opens the door for me,” Sipiagin says. “He has all the instruments, and I can practice and write all day.” The form contains first a  4/4 section, then a subidivided 3/4 section—propelled by Johnathan Blake’s seamless beats, Miller, Sipiagin, and Seamus Blake flow through their solos like ballroom dancers, and engage in Hollandesque polyphony on the closing vamp.

    Launching the second half of the date is a nuanced reading of Wayne Shorter’s “Iris,” which debuted on E.S.P., the first studio recording by the Miles Davis Quintet of the ‘60s. After an evocative theme statement in which Seamus Blake, shamelessly exploiting his beautiful tone, plays an obbligato melody to the head,  Miller “creates a beautiful space” with an elongated, dancing solo; Blake ratchets up the momentum with a pithy declamation; Sipiagin sustains it and winds down with a solo that could serve as a textbook example of tension and release.

    “I always liked the tune, and slightly arranged it to create a different texture,” Sipiagin says of his polyphonic treatment of Cole Porter’s “Just One Of Those Things.” To be specific, the leader plays the original melody, while his colleagues each play a separate line with a distinct groove, eventually landing, collectively, precisely on the one. Over Johnathan Blake’s jet-propelled four-four ride cymbal, Sipiagin, Seamus Blake and Miller uncork heated solos, followed by J.B.’s precisely thematic solo on the drums and cymbals.

    After the band states the theme of Joe Henderson’s “Tetragon,” the title track of a 1968 Henderson LP for Milestone, Kozlov uncorks a monster bass solo, spurred by immaculate comping by Miller, who played the tune frequently during his days with Woody Shaw. “I tried to play it right,” Sipiagin jokes in response to a query about his treatment of the Henderson classic, marked by a series of descending chords and a stop-start melody. “Joe Henderson was an absolute genius at composing tunes. The harmonic movement is totally logical and correct, almost like mathematics, but you don’t think about it when you listen because the melody is so amazing and unpredictable and beautiful.”

    All in all, this date, taken in conjunction with Out of the Circle, Sipiagin’s other, more experimental 2008 offering, makes it apparent that the trumpeter will increasingly be heard leading his own projects as he progresses through his fifth decade. “I hope so,” he says. “I cannot complain with what I have right now. I am very lucky. But at the same time, I want to develop my own music.”

Ted Panken

Criss Cross Records
NEWS ARCHIVES
Opus 5 Press Release/Bio by Bill Milkowski (part 1)
Opus 5 Press Release/Bio by Bill Milkowski (part 2)
2012 Update
ALEX SIPIAGIN JOINS GONZALO RUBALCABA'S 5 PASSION LABEL
DOWNBEAT "DESTINATION UNKNOWN" REVIEW -- October 2011
2011
Live As Featured Guest For NY Youth Symphony March 25 & 26
Alex Sipiagin News January 2010
MIRAGES Liner Notes (Release February 1, 2009) by Ted Panken - Part 1
MIRAGES Liner Notes (Release February 1, 2009) by Ted Panken - Part 2
PRINTS Liner Note by John Kelman (part 1)
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