Alexei "Sasha" Sipiagin was born on June 11, 1967 in Yaroslavl, U.S.S.R. Growing up, Sipiagin studied classical trumpet and played in a youth orchestra. At around age 15 he enrolled in a local music school, where he first encountered modern jazz. Inspired to study more jazz, Sipiagin auditioned and was accepted into the Moscow Music Institute at age 16, eventually graduating with his bachelor's degree in music. After college, Sipiagin's studies were waylaid for two years of compulsory service in the Soviet Army, after which he enrolled in the Gnessin Conservatory in Moscow.
In 1990, Sipiagin competed and placed fourth in the Thelonious Monk Institute's International Louis Armstrong Competition in Washington, D.C. He not only won a Bach trumpet, presented to him by legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry, but also received much notice by critics and jazz musicians in the States. Buoyed by the attention, Sipiagin relocated to New York, where he found work with a bevy of ensembles including the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, bassist Dave Holland's Big Band, Sextet, and Octet groups, as well as a cadre of top-echelon players including Larry Coryell, Conrad Herwig, David Binney, and others. He also made his debut as a leader, issuing Images in 1998, playing alongside Binney, Chris Potter, Scott Colley, and others. He then moved to the Criss Cross label and issued 2001's Steppin' Zone, a hard-hitting acoustic jazz date featuring saxophonist Potter, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Colley, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. More equally dynamic albums followed for Criss Cross, including 2002's Hindsight, 2005's Returning, and 2007's Prints. He also joined Michael Brecker on the saxophonist's Grammy-winning 2003 Quindectet album Wide Angles, and continued his long association with bassist Holland on the 2005 Big Band album Overtime. In 2008, Sipiagin, ever the adventurous journeyman, released Out of the Circle on Sunnyside, an album with various N.Y.C.-based musicians the trumpeter had not worked with closely before. He returned to Criss Cross in 2009 with the high-energy post-bop of Mirages, featuring saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Johnathan Blake. The trumpeter then paid homage to one of his main influences with Generations: Dedicated to Woody Shaw in 2010. A year later, he emerged with the sextet date Destinations Unknown alongside saxophonists Potter and Binney. Potter was also on board for Overlooking Moments in 2013. Around this time, Sipiagin made his debut with the Criss Cross label ensemble Opus 5, appearing on 2011's Introducing Opus 5 alongside saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Donald Edwards. The group, which is modeled after Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, has continued to work regularly, issuing 2012's Pentasonic, 2014's Progression, and 2015's Tickle. In 2014, Sipiagin debuted his New Path ensemble featuring Dutch vocalist Hiske Oosterwijk. The group returned in 2016 with New Path 2. The trumpeter also returned to his sextet work with 2015's Balance 38-58. Two years later, he issued Moments Captured with saxophonists Potter and Will Vinson, pianist John Escreet, bassist Matt Brewer, and drummer Eric Harland. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi