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Alex Sipiagin: New Path 2

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In the 25 years since Alex Sipiagin emigrated to the United States from Russia, he has become an A-list New York trumpet player. As sideman or leader, his work is consistent. He always brings it. On his new album he plays with typical fierce intelligence. But New Path 2 is a failed experiment.

Many of today’s players think that difficult chord progressions and misplaced basslines and, especially, straight eighths, sound modern. It is true that straight eighths, by foregoing conventional swing, can turn time abstract. But the issue with this record is not harmony or meter. Sipiagin’s rhythm section (Misha Tsiganov/Boris Kozlov/Donald Edwards) generates powerful free energy without walking bass or swinging cymbals. Tsiganov speaks Fender Rhodes fluently.

The problem is Sipiagin’s idea for a singer. He uses the voice of Hiske Oosterwijk as a second frontline instrument. Oosterwijk, from the Netherlands, puts English words to Sipiagin’s tunes. Her stilted, grandiose lyrics sound forced into his lines. On the opening track, “Returning,” she states the head with Sipiagin. The words are unintelligible (knowable only because they are printed on the CD package), and the effect is shrill and grating. When Sipiagin takes over for a multifaceted solo, you hope that Oosterwijk will be used selectively, or at least quiet down.

No such luck. She sings on every track, in smeared words or wordlessly. “Afternoon Dreams” is the only time she sounds integrated into the ensemble rather than shrieking over it. New Path 2 is an honest attempt to find a fresh direction. Sipiagin should, and no doubt will, continue to experiment.

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