Alex Sipiagin | Mel’s Vision Review
Visionary Tribute: An Odyssey through Alex Sipiagin’s ‘Mel’s Vision
by Darnell Jackson
With Alex Sipiagin’s 13th Criss Cross release, Mel’s Vision, we are taken on an intricate, emotional journey that pays tribute to jazz legend Mel Lewis while also standing an outstanding addition to Sipiagin’s own virtuosity and discography. This album showcases Sipiagin’s profound skills as a trumpeter and brings to the forefront his lyrical sensibility as an arranger and composer, which draws from a deep well of jazz tradition while also pushing its boundaries.
The ensemble gracing Mel’s Vision is a powerhouse of today’s jazz musicians, each a master of their craft. Alex Sipiagin, hailing from Russia, is known for his technical expertise and lyrical voice on the trumpet, bringing a unique blend of intricate skill and emotional depth to his playing. Joining him on tenor saxophone is the incomparable Chris Potter, an artist lauded for his immense creativity and virtuosic command of the instrument. On the piano, we have David Kikoski, a consummate musician, recognized for his harmonic inventiveness and rhythmic agility. Holding down the bass is Matt Brewer, a rhythmic anchor whose proficiency is matched only by his musical sensitivity. Completing this stellar lineup on drums is Johnathan Blake, whose dynamic playing style adds a robust layer of complexity and energy to the ensemble. Together, these musicians create an intricate web of sounds, each adding their distinctive voice to create a masterful set of modern jazz.
The opening track, “Mel’s Vision,” is a fitting homage to Mel Lewis. From the outset, the band’s camaraderie is palpable, bringing forth a shifting, two-horn melody that gracefully glides atop modern harmonic underpinnings. Sipiagin’s solo here is nothing short of a masterclass in building a narrative through music. His warm-toned trumpet patiently weaves its way through the changes, ebbing and flowing with the rhythmic drive provided by Brewer and Blake, while Kikoski’s piano colors in the lines with tasteful, supportive voicings.
The Ukrainian folk song “Vesnianka” is transformed into a modern jazz masterpiece under Sipiagin’s careful handling. Kikoski’s unique chordal choices imbue the tune with a distinct character, while the two horns navigate the melodic contours with finesse and sentiment. Potter’s electrifying saxophone solo contrasts beautifully with Sipiagin’s clean, precise trumpet lines, each adding their distinct voices to the rich tapestry of sound.
The album offers two takes on “Bird Food,” each take reveals something new and beautiful about the ensemble’s rhythmic cohesion and harmonic ingenuity. Sipiagin’s virtuosity and command over the jazz idiom shines through, matched only by Potter’s own exceptional musical language. This is particularly evident in Sipiagin’s interactions with Potter, as they fearlessly push each other towards uncharted territories of musical exploration.
A standout in the album is “Maritima,” a Chris Potter original that the quintet interprets with remarkable empathy and skill. The interplay between the musicians, their individual voices rising and falling in perfect harmony, serves as a testament to the collective spirit of jazz.
Throughout Mel’s Vision, Sipiagin’s trumpet playing is stunning; his solos are methodical, steeped in elegance, and his tone warm and inviting. His bandmates are equally impressive, breathing life into each composition with their creative choices and technical proficiency.
In conclusion, Mel’s Vision is a harmonious blend of traditional and contemporary jazz elements, showcasing Sipiagin’s exquisite technique and depth of musical understanding. The album is a fitting tribute to a jazz legend and stands as pinnacle in Sipiagin’s contributions to the modern jazz genre. It is an album that any jazz enthusiast will undoubtedly appreciate and must have.
Release Date: January 27, 2023
Label: Criss Cross Jazz