Alex “Sasha” Sipiagin was born June 11, 1967 in Yaroslavl, Russia and began learning to play the trumpet at the age of twelve. He studied at the Moscow Music Institute and the Gnessin Conservatory in Moscow where he received his Baccalaureate. In 1990 he competed in the International Louis Armstrong Competition sponsored by the Thelonious Monk Institute in Washington, D.C. winning top honors. Moving from Russia to the United States in 1991 and began his career shortly thereafter.
His first gigs were with the Gil Evans Band and George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and soon became a favored player for various bands including the Gil Goldstein’s Zebra Coast Orchestra, drummer Bob Moses’ band Mozamba, the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, the Mingus Orchestra, the Dave Holland Big Band, Sextet and Octet groups.
He has recorded and performed with Michael Brecker, Mulgrew Miller, Eric Clapton, Dr.John, Aaron Neville, Elvis Costello, Michael Franks, Dave Sanborn, Deborah Cox, legendary producer Phil Ramone and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, among others. Alex has recorded fifteen albums as a leader, for the most part on the Criss Cross Jazz label.
He is a founding member of the collective Opus 5, along with Seamus Blake, David Kikoski, Boris Kozlov and Donald Edwards. Trumpeter and flugelhornist Alex Sipiagin, who teaches at the Groningen Prince Claus Conservatory, Academy of Music, Basel, Switzerland as well steady professorship at NYU and continues to compose, perform and record.
Harry Beckett was born Harold Winston Beckett on May 30, 1935 in Bridgetown, Saint Michael, Barbados and learned to play music in a Salvation Army band. Moving to the United Kingdom in 1954, he already had an international reputation and in 1961, he played with Charles Mingus in the film All Night Long. The 1960s saw Harry working and recording as a member of bassist and composer Graham Collier. By 1970 he was leading his own groups and recording for Philips, RCA and Ogun Records among other labels.
He was a key figure of important groups in the British free jazz/improvised music scene, including Ian Carr’s Nucleus, the Brotherhood of Breath and The Dedication Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, London Improvisers Orchestra, John Surman’s Octet, Django Bates, Ronnie Scott’s Quintet, Kathy Stobart, Charlie Watts, Stan Tracey’s Big Band and Octet, and Elton Dean’s Ninesense.
He has also recorded with Keef Hartley, Jah Wobble, David Sylvian, Barry Guy/The London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, Oliver Nelson and David Murray. Not limiting himself to jazz , Beckett toured abroad with Johnny Dyani, Chris McGregor, Keith Tippett, John Tchicai, Joachim Kühn, Dudu Pukwana’s Zila, George Gruntz’s Bands, Belgian quintet The Wrong Object, Pierre Dørge’s New Jungle Band and Annie Whitehead’s Robert Wyatt project, Soupsongs, which also featured Phil Manzanera and Julie Tippetts, among other jazz and rock luminaries.
In 1972 he won the Melody Maker Jazz Poll as Top Trumpeter in Britain and was a member of the Orchestre National de Jazz between 1997 and 2000. His dub-oriented album, The Modern Sound of Harry Beckett, was released on On-U Sound in 2008. Trumpeter and flugelhornist and composer Harry Beckett passed away on July 22, 2010 after suffering a stroke.
Ira Sullivan was born May 1, 1931 in Washington, D.C. and was taught trumpet by his father, saxophone by his mother and played both in the 1950s Chicago, Illinois with Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Wardell Gray and Roy Eldridge, garnering a reputation as a fearsome bebop soloist. After playing briefly with Art Blakey in 1956, he mastered alto and baritone saxophone before moving south to Florida and out of the spotlight in the early Sixties.
Sullivan was reluctant to travel which limited his opportunities to play with musicians of the first rank, but he continued to play in the Miami area, often in schools and churches. Hanging out with local younger players Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny, led to teaching and to broadening of his own musical roots to include the lessons of John Coltrane’s music and elements of jazz rock.
Adding flute and soprano saxophone to his armoury, Ira moved to New York City and in 1980 formed a quintet with legendary bop trumpeter Red Rodney where they worked on new material and fostered young talent to produce some fresh and stimulating music. He and his longtime friend and collaborator jazz pianist and vibraphonist Stu Katz, co-led a multi-night performance with at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago.
Ira has performed and/or recorded with Red Rodney, Erin McDougald, Rob Block, Art Blakey, Frank Catalano, Kelly Sill, Charles Heath, Eddie Harris, Roland Kirk, Marc Berner, Lin Halliday, J. R. Monterose, Rita Reys and Billy Taylor and numerous others.
Trumpeter, flugelhornist, flautist, saxophonist, and composer Ira Sullivan has recorded as a leader and currently teaches at the Young Musicians Camp each summer at the University of Miami and remains an active musician on the jazz scene.
Matt Lavelle was born on April 11, born 1970 in Paterson, New Jersey and began his music career with a high school big band tour of the Soviet Union in 1988. He followed this with a five-year period of study with Hildred Humphries, a Swing era veteran who played with Count Basie, Billie Holiday and others.
During this period of study he played trumpet in Hildred’s band, then made his move on New York City and played straight-ahead jazz until 1995 when he relocated to Kingston, New York and studied the bass clarinet. Four years later Lavelle returned to New York seeking out what is known as the Downtown community. He has studied with Ornette Coleman adding alto clarinet to his instrumental arsenal.
Lavelle has played and toured with William Parker, Sabir Mateen, as well as with his own trio, an improvisation collective known as Eye Contact. He was key in the resurgence and return of avant jazz man Giuseppi Logan, helping him return to playing after a 45-year absence, and recording a new record released in spring 2010.
trumpet, flugelhorn and bass clarinet player Matt Lavelle, who has released a dozen albums as a leader or in duo and has recorded another ten as a sideman, continues to perform, record and tour.
Alan Littlejohn was born Albert John Alan Littlejohns on January 4, 1928 in Highgate, London, England. Taking up the trumpet in 1946, he trained as an accountant after the War but also played semi-professionally with bands such as the Blue Note Swingtet and the Galleon Jazz Band. In 1952 he joined Cy Laurie and then a year later moved to play with Eric Silk. Moving to Manchester for eight months he worked with Ron Simpson and the Saints Jazz band in 1954, but then returned to London to work with Eric Silk again.
1955 saw Littlejohn taking a residency at the Putney Jazz Club and a further residency in Chelsea in 1960. In 1963 he led a quintet with trombonist Tony Milliner, pianist Mat Mathewson, bassist Bucky Cowman and Terry Cox on drums, emulating the style of the Bob Brookmeyer/Clark Terry band. Cox and Cowman were soon replaced by Max Cutlan and Dave Holland, respectively.
Over the course of his career Alan would play with Mal Cutlan, Lew Hooper, Jimmy Hamilton, Matt Methewson, Cat Anderson, Peanuts Hucko, Earl Warren, Sonny Dee, the Georgia Jazz Band and to be the support band for Dave Brubeck at his Festival Hall gig. From 1973 to 1978, he played with Alvin Roy’s Band which had a residency at The Prospect of Whitby in London.
When not in residency at clubs in London Littlejohn toured Spain and Germany, guest appeared with the Merseysippi Jazz Band and during the Eighties played as a full-time professional musician for a short period. From 1990 he worked with Laurie Chescoe’s Good Time Jazz until a month before his death. Trumpeter, flugelhornist and bandleader Alan Littlejohn, most notable for his work with artists such as Ben Webster, Earl Hines, Billy Butterfield and recording with Bill Coleman, passed away on November 12, 1995 in Barnet in Hertfordshire.