For a debut recordand a drummer's album, no lessSasha Mashin's Outsidethebox displays a remarkably assured ambition. In fact, Mashin even started his own label to ensure that his music saw the light of day. And with some top-shelf talent providing the compositions and instrumentation on these groove-heavy, stylistically diverse pieces, the results are consistently engaging and powerful.
Mashin hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, and it didn't take long for him to catch the jazz bug, as he started playing Dixieland jazz while still in his early teens. He later honed his craft while working with saxophonist Igor Butman, and eventually, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin utilized his talents on his New Path (ArtBeat Music, 2014), a partnership that presaged Sipiagin's appearance on Outsidethebox, where in addition to his full, spirited sound he contributes three of the compositions.
Well, actually they're four tracks if you consider the two that are "mashed up" by Mashin to produce the album's invigorating opener, "Sipiagin's Mood," where a couple of the trumpeter's earlier pieces ("38-58" and "Mood-2") are joined together to give the track its irresistible momentum and heady complexity. Vocalist Hiske Oosterwijk is also featured here, and her quick, precise lines fit in perfectly with the track's constantly evolving rhythmic structure. Mashin's beat-driven stylistic sensibility is reminiscent of Mark Guiliana's ability to fuse electronica-influenced rhythms with conventional jazz playing, and it's showcased quite well here, giving the music a very contemporary sound.
Similar rewards accompany the other tracks, whether penned by Sipiagin, whose "7=5" is a rhythmic monster with overlapping 7/4 and 5/4 lines, or alto saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev, whose four pieces are just as adventurous, especially "Strange Party," featuring Anton Davidyants' frenetic and worthy of note electric bass work. But irrespective of their origin, the album's nine tracks feel conceptually cohesive, and Mashin's skill as a percussionist is a big reason why; there's no question this is his album, as his infectious creativity and impressive technique give this music its pulse and purpose, despite a revolving cast of musicians (sixteen in total) that might otherwise dilute the music's potency.
Even when the band takes a bop-based detour on "Sharp Night" (with some barn-burning soloing from Strigalev), there are still those glimpses of Mashin's distinctive rhythmic aesthetic that keep the drummer's groove going, especially once he dives into his irrepressible solo during the piece's closing vamp.
Mashin is off to a terrific start here, and he's already keeping the kind of company that should give him abundant opportunities to continue making excellent music.
Sipiagin's Mood; Jazzmashin; 7=5; Paint; Some Thomas; Strange Party; Sharp Night; Ku Ku; Omulu
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