Drummer Sasha Mashin makes clear that he's the real deal within the first fifty seconds of this date. Opening "Sipiagin's Mood," the lead-off track on his debut release, with a solo drum introduction, Mashin immediately stakes his claim. Chops, of course, don't always equate to true artistry or position, but in this case technique and taste shine right through together. As this lengthy number progresses, there's much to admire, including the vocal gymnastics of Hiske Oosterwijk, the spirit of alto saxophonist Rosario Giuliani, the round-toned beauty flowing from trumpeter Alex Sipiagin's horn, and the kinetic energy that binds this band. Still, it's hard not to notice that Mashin's drumming is the backbone that gives everything its shape.
While Mashin may be a complete unknown to jazz listeners on American soil, the time he spent as a member of Russian jazz icon Igor Butman's band in the late '90s affords him a certain cachet in his native Russia. And the respect that he carries is clearly well-earned. Whether making brilliantly blurred mash-ups of Sipiagin originals, creating fractured beats that somehow manage to bear more weight than rutted grooves ever could, or comfortably shifting focus toward talents like saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev, Mashin seems remarkably poised. He is, in brief, a postmodern pillar with a creative bent.
A slew of guests come and go hereno less than eleven musicians appear on three or fewer tracks apieceand the shape of the band, therefore, morphs from song to song. But there's a clear consistency in Mashin's sonic vision, noticeable whether Vladimir Nesterenko's flute is fluttering in the wind, Oded Al-Magut's trombone is adding weight to a small horn section, or Evgeny Pobozhiy is letting his blazing guitar fly. Much of that stability is provided by Mashin, bassist Makar Novikov and pianist Alexey Ivannikov, who serve as the steadiest presences on this album. But a general air of restlessness, supported by a steady stream of creative impulses, is also behind that solidity, serving as a through-line here. This music, like the man percussively pushing it along, is smart and edgy all the way.
Sipiagin's Mood; Jazzmashin; 7=5; Paint; Some Thomas; Strange Party; Sharp Night; Ku Ku; Omulu
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