Alex Sipiagin ‘Balance 38-58’ (Criss Cross Jazz) 4/5

alex-sipiagin“Balance 38-58” just oozes class. And so it should one might say, but that’s not always the case when a group of stellar musicians such as we have here, get together to record. There has to be direction, unity and balance to go alongside any individual talent. We have it here, in spades. Trumpeter Alex Sipiagin’s 11th outing as band leader for Criss Cross Jazz is a well constructed affair, with excellent performances all round. Sipiagin is joined by David Binney (alto and soprano sax), Adam Rogers (guitar), John Escreet (piano), Matt Brewer (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Together the sextet weave their majic through five Sipiagin and two Binney compositions. The opener and title track refers to Sipiagin’s recent travels in Asia and more specifically Taiwan. There are two Taiwanese drinks, one is 38 percent and the other 58 percent. As with life in general, according to Sipiagin, the important thing is finding a balance – couldn’t agree more. Sipiagin excels throughout, on both trumpet and flugelhorn, exhibiting skilful solos, subtle and energetic. The band works well as a unit, with some superb performances and harmonious playing. I particularly enjoyed the tracks “Echoes of thought” and “Yragon”; wonderful pieces brilliantly executed. My only small gripe from a cohesive album point of view is track five; “Balance”. Although the (almost rock) driven guitar-led track is excellent in itself, for me it doesn’t sit at all comfortably with the rest of the album.

There are times on this studio recording when Sipiagin is on fire. To this end I for one would love to see him perform live. Those of you in London on Wednesday night (18th Feb) will be fortunate enough to get the chance to do so. Ronnie Scott’s hosts a great line-up for this gig, led by Sipiagin’s fellow compatriot, saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev. Exciting London label Whirlwind Records present a mouth-watering evening’s entertainment. Performing with Alex Sipiagin and Zhenya Strigalev are Liam Noble, Eric Harland, Linley Marthe and Matt Penman. Collectively they are Zhenya Strigalev’s Smiling Organizm, and they will be celebrating the release of their second album “Robin Goodie”. St Petersburg born Stregalev is rapidly becoming known for his high-octane, hard swinging post bop playing. So with Alex Sipiagin alongside him, it should be a killer of a gig. Check out Ronnie Scott’s on-line for more info.

Mike Gates