Review by Richard B Kamins for Step Tempest
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.