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January/February 2008

Misha Tsiganov
Always Going West
Powerlight Records

It’s a pity that the word “smooth” has been so thoroughly degraded in a jazz context. Otherwise, it might be the best single adjective to describe the music of Misha Tsiganov’s quintet (Alex Sipiagin on trumpet/flugelhorn, Boris Kozlov on bass, Gene Jackson on drums, Samuel Torres on percussion). It is smooth in the sense of suave, devoid of jagged edges but not of substance.

Tsiganov, Sipiagin and Kozlov are Russian émigrés who have lived in the United States since the early 1990s. (Glasnost rocked.) Their sophisticated, confident musicianship reveals, once again, that the jazz language now belongs to the world at large. Sipiagin has a luxuriant tone and crisp ideas. Kozlov is that rare bassist who takes truly meaningful solos. Tsiganov is a well-balanced, lyrical pianist, even when he is hitting hardest. He writes strong tunes, especially ballads. “Waltz for Olena” and “Gone from My Mind” are inevitable enough to be jazz standards.

There are no breakthroughs on this album, which resides comfortably in the most civilized wing of the postbop mainstream (think, perhaps, Hancock’s Maiden Voyage). But, like the best jazz recordings, its validity grows on you and the music gets into your mind.

Originally published in January/February 2008
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