Alex Sipiagin, Upstream Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Alex Sipiagin is a trumpeter, flugelhornist, and composer with a reputation for having a solid foundation steeped in the jazz tradition. Sipiagin’s voice and style are anchored in his full-bodied tone, a linear tactic to jazz harmony, and devotion to swing. He is focusing his attention and intention on his Posi-Tone records debut called Upstream. Joining Sipiagin on the album is pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Rudy Royston. With a program of original compositions and arrangements, Sipiagin’s modern melodic non-diatonic jazz sensibilities can be heard throughout.
Opening with “Call,” a Sipiagin original, the ensemble is set on interaction, deep listening, and conveying a buoyant feel as the melody and various sections get presented. Sipiagin’s use of electronics to harmonize his trumpet lines is tasteful and adds to the song’s sonics. The rhythm section digs into a swing feel for the solo section as Sipiagin’s linear lines dance upon the groundwork. Hirahara’s interactions with Sipiagin are colorful and help define the mood and sections.
Wayne Shorter’s “Miyako” is a chance to hear Sipiagin’s approach to arranging and a standard vehicle for improvising from the jazz catalog. His tone is warm and round as he plays the melody, adding inflections and personality as it unfolds. Kozlov’s bass solo is meaningful and rich in melody. Sipiagin balances space and activity well in his arching solo construction. His personality shines on this slow medium feel, which allows his rhythmic vocabulary to flourish.
Upstream presents an even-paced project and introduces us to Sipiagin’s excellent playing style. Sipiagin is at the top of his game, and his supporting cast is equally daring and sharp. The result is Upstream is a pleasure to hear and realize the talents brewing within the project.