Balance 38-58 (Criss Cross Jazz)
Released February 17, 2015
DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review
Following up his chord-less quartet outing of 2013 Overlooking Moments, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin returns with a compelling sextet lineup featuring David Binney, Adam Rogers, John Escreet and Matt Brewer, every one of them an esteemed bandleader in the Criss Cross fold. Eric Harland, leader of his own Voyager group and a valued presence on 10 prior Criss Cross releases (including two by Sipiagin), rounds out the ensemble on drums.
The dense yet flowing counterpoint, knotty lyricism and effortless groove anchoring these original pieces make Balance 38-58 a vital addition to Sipiagin’s catalog.
Whether he’s leading his own bands or lending his fiery solo voice to the music of Dave Holland, Manuel Valera, Misha Tsiganov, the Mingus Big Band and many others, Sipiagin continues to make his name as one of the world’s finest jazz trumpeters.
1. 38-58 (Alex Sipiagin) 09:28
2. Way to Her (Alex Sipiagin) 08:32
3. Momentum (Alex Sipiagin) 09:36
4. Echoes of Thought (Alex Sipiagin) 12:15
5. Balance (Alex Sipiagin) 06:28
6. Yragon (David Binney) 08:24
7. Trio Whale (David Binney) 07:58
Alex Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn
David Binney: alto and soprano saxophone
Adam Rogers: guitar
John Escreet: keyboards
Matt Brewer: bass
Eric Harland: drums
Recorded October 6, 2014, at Systems Two Recording Studios, Brooklyn, NY
Produced by Gerry Teekens
Recording Engineer: Michael Marciano
Mixing and Mastering: David Darlington
Photography: Jimmy Katz
Cover Design: Gerry Teekens/Bloemendaal in Vorm
There is nothing conventional about the music and performances on trumpeter Alex Sipiagin’s Balance 38-58. Many of the melody lines (all but the final two David Binney pieces are by Sipiagin) are extremely complex, and it is a fair bet to say that none of these songs will be showing up at jam sessions anytime soon. Due to the superb musicianship of the six musicians and their familiarity with each other (only keyboardist John Escreet is new to Sipiagin’s music), their readings of the themes sound effortless and natural. The title of the CD Balance 38-58 might make one think that Sipiagin was referring to having a balanced life during middle age, but the 38 and 58 actually refer to the range of alcohol content in Taiwan’s national drink. However, there is a definite balance throughout this program, with the complex aspects of the music being offset by the warm tones of the soloists, particularly the leader. All of the musicians make important contributions to the music, especially in the stimulating ways they play behind the lead voices. Escreet (on both piano and Fender Rhodes) and guitarist Adam Rogers constantly push the horns into expected areas; Matt Brewer’s bass lines are sometimes funky but never repetitive; and drummer Eric Harland has a creative commentary going throughout. Binney on alto and soprano is a passionate soloist, and Sipiagin, whose brilliant playing sounds like a mix of Woody Shaw and Kenny Wheeler, makes it all sound logical and inevitable. The album’s standout tracks are significant for their complexity. “38-58” is one of the trickier pieces, although the passionate solos make the music seem more accessible. “Way To Her” has a mellower feel with Sipiagin on flugelhorn, even if its melody line is no less complicated, and “Momentum” has a conversational theme with rapid unisons by the horns over a medium-tempo groove. Balance 38-58 will keep listeners guessing while showing how jazz continues to move forward.
Scott Yanow (DownBeat)