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The Artistry of the Standard

Andrew Luhn By

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Misha Tsiganov: The Artistry of the Standard On the homepage of Misha Tsiganov's website is a quote that reads "Falling in love with jazz is exactly like falling in love with a person... Except with jazz you never get over it..." This quote serves as an appropriate introduction for the Russian-born pianist's Criss Cross debut, The Artistry of the Standard. On this album Tsiganov and his quintet of first-call New York players present a program full of love and respect for the history and tradition of jazz, but presented within a thoroughly complex and original modern idiom. Within this set of ten standards Tsiganov illustrates his love of classic jazz through intricate re-workings of both post- bop classics, and tunes from the Great American Songbook.

Though Tsiganov is a newcomer to the Criss Cross label, the remaining members of the quintet are all seasoned Criss Cross veterans. Trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and saxophonist Seamus Blake have released a steady stream of albums through the Criss Cross label since the late 90's. Bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Donald Edwards have been regular sidemen on Criss Cross releases in the past several years as well. In fact, the four sidemen in this quintet have previously recorded two albums together (along with pianist Dave Kikoski) for Criss Cross under the name Opus 5.

Throughout these nine tunes, Tsiganov and company nimbly negotiate their way through the heady, complex charts. Almost all the tunes are given complex new time signatures and meter shifts, but because of the cleverness of the arrangements and the band's aptitude, the odd meters come off feeling completely natural. The rhythm section effortlessly transitions between straight-eighth and swing feels with a simplicity and clarity that tastefully supports both the melodies and the solos.

Edwards and Kozlov perfectly illustrate this eighth note shift in the elegant arrangement of Wayne Shorter's classic tune, "Fall." The alternating time feels and inspired solos capture the freewheeling aesthetic of this post-bop standard. Tsiganov plays with a driving fire, reminiscent of Herbie Hancock at his craftiest and Sipiagin proves he has learnt a thing or two about phrasing from Miles Davis. The other Wayne Shorter tune, "This Is For Albert," departs from the deep swinging, hard bop feel of the original Art Blakey version and presents the tune with a driving quarter note pulse in 10/4 time. Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha" keeps the familiar contrapuntal lines between the trumpet and saxophone but adds a series of offbeat hits within the rhythm section, giving the already complex melody a new level of sophistication. The up-tempo swing of the solo sections gives Sipiagin and Blake plenty of space to show off their chops.

Tsiganov's arrangement of Wes Montgomery's "Four on Six" alters the familiar ostinato bass line and breathes new life into the tune, but for the solos the group relaxes into a heavy swing that would make Montgomery proud. For Jerome Kern's "The Song is You" Tsiganov strips the group down to trio and introduces the tune with a 7/4 vamp. The A-sections of the tune have had their 16 beat phrases divided atypically into measures of 4/5/4/3 rather than the standard 4 bars of four beats.

On The Artistry of the Standard Tsiganov presents a picture of jazz history but viewed through tinted lenses. His exciting and fresh arrangements bring a new perspective to these classic jazz standards. The charts are complex and dense, but the collective talents of the musicians prove to be equal to the task and they explore the music with both a nod to tradition and a firm grasp of the modern cutting- edge.


Track Listing: Fall; Get Out of Town; The Song is You; Ah-Leu-Cha; This is for Albert; Four on Six; Falling in Love with Love; Mr. Day; Make Sure You're Sure

Personnel: Misha Tsiganov: Piano; Alex Sipiagin: Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Seamus Blake: Tenor Sax; Boris Kozlov: Bass; Donald Edwards: Drums

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Criss Cross


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