With Swing On This, the all-star quintet Opus 5 presents its fifth Criss Cross album, and first since 2015, when Criss Cross released Tickle (Criss 1383), which itself was preceded – in backwards chronology – by Progression (Criss 1369), Pentasonic (Criss 1351), and Introducing Opus 5 (Criss 1339), each recorded a year apart. The “all star” sobriquet is not an exaggeration – the collective discographies of trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Donald Edwards, all international first-callers, total more than 30 Criss Cross leader dates.
Opus 5 gestated in 2010, when Sipiagin and Blake, brainstorming over drinks at the bar in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport during a between-flights layover, decided to organize a new band to play original music that did not reference the music of Charles Mingus that they’d been playing together for many years in the Mingus Big Band, which Kozlov has music-directed since 2004. They recruited Kikoski, Kozlov and Edwards, each a colleague of long standing in the MBB. Edwards suggested the name, signifying on Kozlov’s big band arrangement of Mingus’ Opus 4 that all members admired. They contacted Criss Cross proprietor Gerry Teekens, who knew them all, and green-lit that first album in 2011. Through the next six years, “the five bandleaders and five sidemen,” as Kozlov puts it, enhanced their already considerable chemistry on periodic tours in Europe and Russia, developing material that they documented from one date to the next.
During the seven-year gap that separates Tickle from Swing On This, the members found fewer opportunities to play. Everyone was busy with other projects. Covid-19 made it problematic to convene. Blake and Sipiagin relocated to Europe. Then, last summer, when Blake scheduled a trip in New York to conduct personal business, Opus 5 seized the opportunity to go in the studio to record eight pieces with engineer Mike Marciano. With a single brief rehearsal under their belt, they navigate the repertoire with fluent mutual intuition and deep commitment, as though they’d been probing it for months.
|1.||Swing On This (George Fontenette) 4:39|
|2.||Pythagoras (David Kikoski) 7:41|
|3.||Moonbay (Boris Kozlov) 7:17|
|4.||Fermata (Alex Sipiagin) 10:58|
|5.||Finger Painted Swing (Donald Edwards) 8:44|
|6.||Sight Vision (Alex Sipiagin) 6:19|
|7.||The Great Divide (Donald Edwards) 5:49|
|8.||In Case You Missed It (Bobby Watson) 8:34|
Total Time: 60:02
Recorded September 7, 2021 in Astoria, NY, USA by Mike Marciano