Album reviews

Misha Tsiganov – ‘Misha’s Wishes’

Misha Tsiganov – Misha’s Wishes
(Criss Cross Jazz 1409. CD review by John Stevenson)

An absence of gigging opportunities during the first six months of the pandemic in 2020 provided just the right creative spur for Misha Tsiganov.

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The Brooklyn-based pianist converted the downtime into a period of serious productivity, birthing a suite of imaginative compositions and arrangements now documented on Misha’s Wishes, his fourth recording on the Criss Cross imprint.

Born in St Petersburg, Misha grew up in an artistic household. He was bitten by the jazz bug from an early age and eventually took up jazz studies at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1991. After graduating, he burnished his credentials as an impressive accompanist in bands led by the likes of Michael Brecker, Chico Freeman, Joe Chambers, Hendrik Meurkens and Norman Hedman, among others.

Accompanying Misha are faithful sidemen who have performed and recorded with him for several years: drummer Donald Edwards, two fellow Russian emigres: acoustic bassist Boris Kozlov and trumpet/flugelhorn player Alex Sipiagin, and tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake. Their shared chemistry is readily discerned on each of the ten tracks.

The medium-paced swinger Fire House throws the spotlight on Misha’s distinctive writing strengths and compositional influences. The spirits of Cedar Walton and McCoy Tyner inform his oeuvre, but the individuality still comes through clearly.

Strike Up the Band, composed by George Gershwin in 1927 for the Broadway musical of the same name, features Misha’s ingenious reharmonisation on Fender Rhodes and acoustic piano. The tune typifies his judicious mix of alternating tempi and moods – from a waltz in one passage to brisk bebop swing in the next. Blake’s tumultuous tenor soloing can be heard to good effect.

The title track and the wistful Are You With Me? are perhaps the most personal and introspective of his originals. The former expresses Misha’s wish “that all people on the planet get through this difficult time and still live in a positive mode”, while the latter was penned while he and his ex-wife Olena “were moving apart and weren’t sure whether or not we’d be together.” Sensitive horn solos and delicate brushwork greatly enhance the deeply-felt emotional quality of these two works.

The hard bop melding of the Russian folk tune with Miles Davis’ So What (There Was a Birch Tree in the Field, So What) is yet another example of Misha’s splendid arrangements on a winning album.

LINK: Misha’s Wishes at Criss Cross Records

Misha’s Wishes at Presto Music (UK)

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