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Historically speaking, there is nothing so strange about an organic fusion of such diverse musical elements as jazz, traditional folk music and a classically trained pianist’s approach to his instrument. In fact, the very origin of the music we call “jazz” includes virtually anything from African drums and French menuets to Irish folk songs and religious hymns. We experience a sense of newness and unfamiliarity, however, when we are no longer able to fit a new piece of music into already defined categories.
How, then, should we define Mikhail Alperin’s music?
Is it jazz? You will indeed find the undefinable swingy nerve, the groovy improvisation, and the foot-tapping energy most people associate with both contemporary and traditonal jazz music. But Alperin’s music consists of so much more that some people have difficulties calling it “jazz”.
Is it folk music then? Yes, you will find roots and structures stemming from old Moldavian, Russian and other folk song traditions. Listening to the disc you’re now holding in your hand, you may feel, at times, that you are at a country weddding in Moldavia, at a Russian square dance from ages past, or at some countryside festival in the Balkans. To most of us, however, folk music is something that was created in a remote past by unknown and long-since dead local trubadurs, and dredged up by musical archeologists from past cultures and put in museums, untouched by contemporary notions. Mikhail Alperin, quite on the contrary, continues folk song traditions, filtering them through his own very contemporary mind. He uses not only one source of traditions, but all possible styles and moods that he feels drawn to, believing all true folk music to be interconnected (The first time he heard Jan Gabarek playing Norwegian folk song material he could swear it was Moldavian!). If Mikhail Alperin is a folk musician, his compositions are not more dated than contemporary jazz is.
Is his music classical? Yes, there are piano techniques that you would expect from Ashkenazy and a disciplined compositional approach worthy of a Stravinsky. You will however also find a kind of freedom, a kind of crazy an uninhibited savagery that you would certainly not ascribe to most classical music. Listening to this disc, you may suddenly find yourself quietly back (as I do, as Edvard Grieg obviously did and like Alperin has done many a time) dreaming of craggy shores along a Norwegian fiord.
Which shelf should we put this record on? It doesn’t matter, as long as you place it alongside your other favourites, regardless of genres or schools.
Written by: Isak Rodge, Norway
“I understand one of my favorite musicians – Glen Gould – very well who once said, ‘I am a composer who plays piano’. I feel very similar, even when I am performing solo-piano recitals. Sometimes I would just like to be the player enjoying the colours of a great instrument but the composer inside of me is creating the vision of an orchestra and I am following this message.
In the past few years I was very much inspired to work with sounds. I feel very lucky that I was able to realize almost all of my fantasies. – Thanks to JARO and ECM records.
This album is a presentation of several of my projects. Here you have music for different groups and ensembles: from piano solo to brass quintet, from folkchoir to violin, recorded live and in studios in Europe and USA.
However, the idea of the album is far from putting together a show-sampler or a loose collection of compositions. Here sound-stories based on the dramaturgical background. To me this is a large suite for different settings.
Only one composition has been released in the west (“New Skomorohi” on the CD Mountain Tale of The Bulgarian Voices ANGELITE & Moscow Art Trio with Huun-Huur-Tu). One of my last projects “Night moods” – a suite for cello, piano & percussion – would have fit into the album but I consciously did not include it. In the near future (I hope ) this project will be released seperatly. One of the compositions on Portrait is very special for me. I wrote “Cry” at a very dramatical time for me and my family. At that time music was a gate for my sorrow. Very few times we – the Moscow Art Trio – managed to perform this composition on stage because of the strong emotions it evokes.
Using and playing with contrasts is my favorite tool. For this life is the best teacher because you never know what will happen the next minute. I hope this record is similar.
Written by: Mikhail Alperin