Ascent To the Blues

Ascent To the Blues

On Ascent to the Blues, veteran trumpeter Alex Sipiagin builds on what he started with Upstream (2021), keeping acoustic and electric pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Rudy Royston in place but scaling up to a quintet by adding tenor saxophonist Diego Rivera. The second horn allows for somewhat thicker, knottier orchestration of melodies and themes, and of course highlights Rivera’s gritty intensity as a soloist. Wayne Shorter’s legacy is one focus: the ballad “Infant Eyes” from Speak No Evil finds Rivera sitting out as Sipiagin and Hirahara work their lyrical magic, while the closing rendition of “Twelve More Bars to Go” (from JuJu) gets a lilting treatment in 5/4 time. Woody Shaw, one of Sipiagin’s key trumpet influences, also gets a shout-out with “Blues for Wood” (co-written by Shaw and Ronnie Mathews), in a polyrhythmic arrangement similar to the one first heard on Sipiagin’s 2010 Shaw tribute album, Generations. The leader also revives his knotty, blues-based “Hindsight,” from the 2002 album of the same name, and injects an off-kilter funk vibe with “Dolphin’s View” and “Doppio.”

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