Live At Smalls
From Reality and Back
On these two CDs from trumpeter Alex Sipiagin—one recorded live, the other in the studio—it is not always apparent who is leading the band. Sipiagin composed everything (except for “Son, Uvedeny Posle,” an original contribution from guitarist Pat Metheny), but tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, who also appears on both discs, brings everything he’s got to the table. Fortunately, when Blake takes his strident funk to the limit, Sipiagin follows up with an equally virile statement. The trumpeter and saxophonist are in constant motion, pursuing separate conversations that coalesce just before becoming too overwhelming.
Live At Smalls takes pride in dancing dangerously close to excess. The five-track set bristles with an unhinged beauty, propelled by the audience in the tiny Greenwich Village cave. Drummer Nate Smith barrels along, offering an invigorating whirl of sticks on “Pass” that pushes the nearly 20-minute work to a rousing conclusion. Pianist David Kikoski gets a chance to flutter and spin following the horn solos on “Videlles” with a breathless jaunt across the keyboard. Bassist Boris Kozlov gets a little buried in all of the excitement.
On From Reality And Back, the most unreal thing is the lineup. Sipiagin has a dream team of support with drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Dave Holland joined by the pianist and producer Gonzalo Rubalcaba. It’s more subdued but still actively churning, offering more variety but never reaching the ecstatic highs of the live bout.