Alex Sipiagin: Mel’s Vision

Russian-Ukrainian trumpeter enjoys the freedom of NY, jazz and now Europe, leading a virtuosic band including Chris Potter and David Kikoski


Title track Mel’s Vision from Alex Sipiagin’s 13th record on Criss Cross is dedicated to his wife. Sipiagin and his inspirational partner recently relocated from jazz mecca New York City to northern Italy. His latest outing testifies equally to his vision and, not least, his prowess on trumpet and flugelhorn. Sipiagin revels in the company of heavyweights Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, David Kikoski on piano, Matt Brewer on bass and Blue Note recording artist Johnathan Blake on drums.

The strong opener (Mel’s Vision) reminds of the compositional skills of the recently deceased jazz giant Wayne Shorter. Similar Shorter vibes mark Sipiagin’s Balmoral Point, an engaging piece that links long melody lines with dark-hued and suspenseful harmonies.

The repertoire additionally consists of Potter’s Brazil-flavoured Maritima and a hodgepodge of classic compositions by McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus. All the more reason to appreciate this outfit’s consistent high level, though then again it shouldn’t be surprising considering that all members cooperated in various constellations since the 1990s.

Inevitably, special attention is paid to the group’s most famous member, Chris Potter. Like the bear, Potter represents that rare and deadly combination of muscle and agility. True to his stature as contemporary post-bop giant, Potter constantly moves his phrases into the outer reaches of the songbook’s harmonic territory. Sipiagin follows suit, his beautiful mellow tone leavening the intensity of the Ukranian folk tune Vesnianka. It is turned into an acute modal cooker that pushes him to the limit. The seemingly effortless ease with which Sipiagin spices his elegant and poised story line with long high notes is rather striking.

The Russian-Ukrainian trumpeter got his share of animosity from Kremlinites. In the liner notes, he explains that the inclusion of Vesnianka has made it virtually impossible for him to visit the ol’ country. Unperturbed, brave Mr. Sipiagin stresses the unbeatable value of jazz’s sounds of surprise and freedom.

Mel’s Vision; Summer’s End; Four By Five; Maritima; Vesnianka; Bird Food (take 2); Balmoral Point; Bird Food (take 1); Peggy’s Blue Skylight (71.18)
Sipiagin (t); Chris Potter (ts); David Kikoski (p); Matt Brewer (b); Johnathan Blake (d); Astoria, 22 April 2022.
Criss Cross 1414