Alexei Tsiganov was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia, into a family of artists, with his father a renowned sculptor, mother, a music teacher, and his older brother, a pianist. Music became Alexei's natural choice. He started playing homemade percussions at the age of four, accompanying his brother, and playing along with the records. His brother was his first mentor in jazz, giving Alexei lessons in jazz harmony and improvisation, and taking him to all the shows and jam sessions in town.
Alexei entered children's music school as a percussionist, playing drums, xylophone and vibraphone. By the time he passed on to continue his study at the famous St. Petersburg Mussorgsky Music College, he was also devoting growing attention to piano studies. His major passion was jazz, and, while still at school, he played extensively at numerous jazz festivals, both domestic and international. At the age of seventeen he began working at St. Petersburg Jazz Philharmonic Hall, the largest jazz club in the Soviet Union, first as a member of the David Goloschokin Group (host band), and later with his own program.
In 1989, Alexei won the St. Petersburg Competition of Young Jazz Performers, and in 1990 was among winners of the 1st All-Russian Jazz Music Competition in Rostov-on-Don. These accomplishments had brought him wide recognition in Russia, and he began regular appearances in the national radio and TV programs.