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Misha Alperin

At Home (ECM 1768)
and My First Dance (ECM 1995 - recorded July 2006)

This classically trained versatile musician had impressed us first in Lucerne's The Long Night of Improvisation (November 2001)and it has been good to catch up with his recordings in connection with the publication of Horizons Touched, the history of ECM.

His solo album recorded At Home was conceived as a very private offering, taped at home in solitude 'when the mind was inert, the ears alert and the music born practically without revisions - - improvisation in the presence of the night'.

Misha Alperin is an interesting mixture of the introverted and flamboyantly public personae. I cannot do better than reprint my reactions to his playing the same music live on a bright scarlet grand piano in Lucerne's Piano Festival: - - the individualist Misha Alperin began his hour disarmingly with spare and refined little melodies which brought to my mind the contrived and knowing simplicity of Satie, and the children's pieces of Stravinsky, compelling attention to the beauties of the moment and holding our interest to discover what might come next, sometimes bursting into hectic ostinati, and with many a touch of sly, understated humour and oblique musical references.

Some of his very personal improvisations in similar vein are collected here, recorded on the 21st anniversary of his father's death in the isolation of his home studio on the Oslo Fjord. I received it together with Alperin's new CD, My First Dance, with French horn player Arkady Shilkloper and cellist Anja Lechner replacing the singer in Alperin's Moscow Art Trio, enjoyed in London the same year when they had reunited and I wrote: Alperin's contribution to contemporary music embraces the unbiased integration of various musical traditions, the crossing of stylistic boundaries and fusion of music of the past with contemporary elements. Alperin met up with horn player Arkadij Shilkloper, a member of the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra who also played in jazz circles, and Sergey Starostin (clarinet, folk reeds, vocals) - - pooling their knowledge and interests, they became the Moscow Art Trio in 1990. - -

I have to say that this newer disc interests me less than the solo one. The greater part of the music is inclined towards the slow and lugubrious, with track titles like Lonely in White; Frozen Tears and Via Dolorosa. Some of it is closely reminiscent of the minimalism of Arvo Pärt, a cult composer well respresented in ECM's catalogue, and one whose following has not embraced my more restless preferences. But I remain intrigued by Alperin as an all round musician and am glad to have heard At Home and to recommend it to music lovers who can take him on his own terms.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See The Guardian's jazz reviewer's positive welcome to My First Dance, and go to AmazonUK for Alperin's several releases by ECM and another appreciation and recommendation of At Home.

Photo from Jaro records