Alex Sipiagin - NoFo Skies

Label: Blue Room Music, 2019

Personnel – Alex Sipiagin: trumpet; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Will Vinson: alto saxophone; Alina Engibaryan: vocals; John Escreet: piano, keyboards; Matt Brewer: bass; Eric Harland: drums.

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NoFo Skies, the new recording by trumpeter/composer Alex Sipiagin, features his regular crew. If saxophonists Chris Potter and Will Vinson contribute to the supple three-horn voicing with ardent determination, pianist/keyboardist John Escreet, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Eric Harland establish a front-rank rhythm section. Russian-born vocalist Alina Engibaryan completes the lineup, employing her warm tones to narrate stories with words and contemporary melodies. The material, nine compositions by Sipiagin and one by Engybarian, run smoothly, forming a solid whole. The album was inspired by the North Fork of Long Island, New York (Spiagin’s home), and wends its way through a variety of modern yet palpable sonic terrains.

Rush” is delivered with magnificent colors, a standout cut where it’s impossible not to get swept in its exquisite groove and relish with the exuberance of the horns. Besides the strong melodic and harmonic content, there’s this crisp, syncopated urban beat that modulates into a different meter according to the passages. The unhesitant, quasi-indomitable improvisations from Spiagin, Vinson, and Escreet are replete of inventive ideas, while Harland wings it over a concluding vamp.

NoFo Skies” manages its curves and angles with a crossover feel that calls up Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker. Before diving into a collective horn rampage, Potter, Sipiagin, and Escreet, who deliberately blurs the focus on keyboards, already had blown the lid off to let their languages flow unreservedly.

Engibaryan wrote lyrics for and sung on “Recovery”, where breezy jazz waves meet contemporary R&B; “Shadows”, a flattering piece honed with adjacent unisons; “For You”, a showcase for her vocal range; and “Between AM’s”, a vocal-layered piece whose music she penned herself. On the latter piece, and despite the simplicity of the beat, Sipiagin and Potter show off hot solos that pin you back in your chair. The trumpeter’s chromatic movements are quite groovy, whereas the tenorist rides half-in half-out over a funk-ish synth-driven tide.

Following sketchy guidelines, both “Sky 1” and “Sky 2” are atmospheric musings that nothing have to do with “Savoir”, a proof that Escreet, Brewer, and Harland are adepts of that breezy funk in the vein of Jamiroquai and Incognito.

For this disc, Sipiagin invested as much in compositional acumen as improvisational abundance, modernizing rhythms and patterns while still respectful of traditional frames. All musicians seem comfortably fit in their positions and the present session transpires not just a relaxed environment but also the strong bondage between them.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Rush ► 02 - NoFo Skies ► 09 - Between AM’s


Alex Sipiagin - Moments Captured

Label/Year: Criss Cross, 2017

Lineup – Alex Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Will Vinson: alto and soprano saxophone; John Escreet: piano, keyboards; Matt Brewer: bass; Eric Harland: drums + guest Alina Engibaryan: vocals.

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Russian-born trumpeter Alex Sipiagin has been faithful to a post-bop idealism while searching for the perfect hook. A regular on the Criss Cross catalog, he released more than a dozen records as a leader. 
In addition to studio recordings with Dave Holland, Michael Brecker, and Mingus Big Band, he also stepped out of the jazz sphere by working with Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello.

For his latest all-original session, Moments Captured, he secures bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Eric Harland, who wove the solid foundation on the previous Balance 38-58, and enlists the adventurous keyboardist John Escreet, who permeates these compositions with edgier sounds. He also expanded the group’s frontline with the stimulating energy of saxophonists Chris Potter and Will Vinson.

The sextet immediately billows with spontaneous emotion and kinetic exploration on the striking opening tune, “Evija Bridge”. Formulated with an array of colorful impressions and obeying to complex yet well-shaped forms and textures, everything sounds terrific here: the exuberance of the theme statement, a semi-chaotic passage favoring the collective, the wholehearted improvisations by the horn players and their cutting counterpoint in conjunction with Escreet before the reinstatement of the theme.

Unexpected Reversal” is another assault to our senses as it squeezes the spatial folk fulgor of the whistling keyboards on top of the cyclic horn movements. Vinson and Potter improvise eloquently in a ping-pong style before Sipiagin steals the melodic conduction to himself. The atmosphere goes berserk when Escreet establishes a demarcation point for his outlandish explorations on the Prophet 6 synthesizer.

While “Blues for Mike” touches the traditional post-bop ways, the cerebral “Bergen Road” advances with a straightforward attitude, opening a breach for Harland’s rhythmic inspiration before the final chorus.

Sipiagin affords some feel-good vibes on the title track and “Breeze”, the two pieces featuring the warm voice of his fellow countryman Alina Engibaryan, yet, it was with the closing composition, “Dream”, that he impressed me the most. It is a fascinating Metheny-esque reverie that thrives with controlled collective outputs and laid-back ambiances enveloped by a strong synth presence.

Each move unleashes vibrant energies, builds up group dynamics, and reinforces the ineradicable rapport within the group. These ‘captured moments’ are kaleidoscopic decors that make for a gripping listen.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Evija Bridge ► 03 - Unexpected Reversal ► 07 – Dream