Alex Sipiagin, Mel’s Vission Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Alex Sipiagin has returned with another Criss Cross album called Mel’s Vission, the 55-year-old thirteenth release as a leader. Also, I reviewed Sipiagin’s Posi-Tone records debut called Upstream. . Sipiagin is joined by tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Johnathan Blake. The album has a Ukrainian folk song, two compositions by Blake, one by Potter, and four tunes from the jazz canon. Mel’s Vission was recorded on April 22, 2021, at the Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in NY. Recording engineer Mike Marciano also did the editing, mixing, and mastering at Systems Two in NY.
Sipiagin’s original and title track, “Mel’s Vission,” opens the album with a stunning display of musicianship and band camaraderie. Anchored by a shifting chordal pattern, the hard bop-styled melody floats over the modern harmony. Sipiagin’s solo builds methodically as his worm-toned trumpet sings through the changes. Blake and Brewer anchor the feel as Kikoski colors and supports each of Sipiagin’s lyrical phrases. Potter’s power on the tenor saxophone is matched by few alive today. His rhythmic creativity and chordal progressions over the harmony are beautifully performed. This opening selection sets the mood and tone for all the wonderful music still to come.
“Vesnianka” is a Ukrainian folk song given a wonderful modern jazz coloring. Kikoski’s chord voicings add spice as the two horns deliver a stirring melody performance. Potter’s agile solo builds the energy with his juxtaposition of flurries of notes with rhythmic, melodic motifs. Blake’s cross-rhythms also propel the power. Sipiagin digs deep and does his solo with elegance and clarity.
Mel’s Vission is a special project by an ensemble with chemistry that speaks the same modern jazz language. Sipiagin’s tone on the trumpet is outstanding, the song choices flow, and all the solos are inspiring. Mel’s Vission will not disappoint as Sipiagin again displays a beautiful ability to navigate harmonic and rhythmic complexities with accuracy, emotion, and unshakable lyricality.
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