Happy Synapse
Rainy Days Records
Street Date: PART I - MAY 8 & PART II - MAY 22 

Happy Synapse, the sophomore album from St. Petersburg-native, drummer and bandleader Sasha Mashin. A follow-up to Outsidethebox (“Mashin is off to a terrific start here”- Troy Dostert, All About Jazz ⋆⋆⋆⋆), Happy Synapse introduces fans to Mashin’s exciting new group which features the drummer alongside Josh Evans on trumpet, Rosario Giuliani on alto saxophone, Dmitry Mospan on tenor saxophone, Benito Gonzalez on piano and Makar Novikov on bass. Comprising eight original tracks, each penned by either Evans, Giuliani, Mospan or Gonzalez, Happy Synapse serves as a monumental, defining release for Mashin, not only in his professional career but his own personal development. With this release, Mashin commemorates his inspiring recovery from the struggles he encountered with his own mental health. His unique story draws particular significance to his experiences growing up in Russia - an environment in which the stigmatization of depression was evident at the time. Happy Synapse will be released in two parts - Part I is due out May 8th, with Part II following on May 22nd

During his early, formative years throughout the 90’s Russia, Sasha Mahin struggled in finding solace. Although the drummer realized some relief through exercise - running a marathon being one of his most significant sporting accolades - a transformative point came in his first listen of John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, gifted to him by the leader of a Dixieland band he was a member of at the time. It became a medium through which he could escape his surrounding environment at the time, and from there the drummer found his musical flair. 

At this point Mashin realized the significance of music and the power the art has in influencing the synapses of the human mind - more often than not resulting in a positive - ‘happy’ - outcome. With the release of Happy Synapse, Mashin presents the idea that with the help of music, sport or whatever other means of expression people might find comfort in, the chemical make-up of the brain can be hugely improved upon and benefited. It’s at this point that the human mind can not only accept a whole host of new information, it can develop new ideas - in Mashin’s case, these being in an artistic, creative form. 

Mashin says, “usually, people do not want to share their experience because this kind of talk is really stigmatized in society but a large majority of all adults experience this at least once during their lifetime in different variations.” However, even during the toughest of times, glimpses of hope and happiness can shine through and this perspective is reflected even in the album’s artwork. Mashin continues, “in my case music and of course, people nearby helped me out of the awful illness I was experiencing. Those happy glimpses are happy synapses at work, exactly like those splashes of color on the dark, black cover of the album - maybe those colors on the cover are the brilliant musicians playing on the album. Maybe this is the magic work of our brain cells. Maybe they represent the music itself that can save the whole world.”

Happy Synapse opens with “The Hidden Voice” by Rosario Giuliani. “The track is pure dopamine for me,” Mashin says. “It says ‘Go, Run!’ - I hope it will help all my runner mates on the next marathon.” While “Incantation” by Dmitry Mospan reminds the bandleader of the multitude of days he listened to John Coltrane while living in Saint-Petersburg, “Sulieman Saud” by Josh Evans is, of course, a tribute to the late, great McCoy Tyner. “Thank you, Benito, for keeping his heritage alive,” Mashin notes. “Night Melody” by Benito Gonzalez is a “slow walk in paradise”, while “Inner News” by Dmitry Mospan evokes a sound like that of Jeff “Tain” Watts. “Sim Card” speaks of the friendship between Mashin and Josh Evans. The pair first met in Moscow, while Josh was over performing. Upon asking for Evans’ phone number with the goal of setting up a practice together, the trumpeter explained that he had no Russian SIM card while visiting. In response to the kindness of Mashin, who bought his colleague a SIM card, Evans then wrote this tune as a thank you. In 2005, Sasha Mashin first met Makar Novikov on a flight from Russia to NYC - the pair, unknownst to each other before their encounter, were both en route to a two week program at The New School. During this excursion, this rhythm section - at the time, in its infancy - had the opportunity to develop under the tutelage of Clark Terry, Reggie Workman and Jimmy Heath. The duo continued their musical relationship upon returning to their homeland. Now, upon reflection, the drummer regards this collaboration as yet another happy synapse correlating to the creation of this album. 

His debut release, Outsidethebox served as an attempt to break down barriers - the bandleader aimed to encourage people to do what they want to do, even if it stretches the boundaries. With the release of Happy Synapse, Sasha Mashin continues to encourage people to present and develop themselves without fear of judgement or stigmatization.  

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZTRAIL
"People whose musical taste leans on tradition won’t regret buying this one, while modernists can also enjoy pure moments of jazz expansion." Read the full review here.

 

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
Read the full review here.

 

LEONID AUSKERN
JAZZ QUAD (RU)
"Happy Synapse, with its rich modern jazz language and highly skilled musicians, will be welcomed by jazz lovers and critics as much as Sasha Mashin's debut album: this comrade is on the right track!" Read the full Russian review here

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