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Misha Alperin Israel Conservatory of Music Tel Aviv, Israel Nov. 9, 2005
Pianist Mikhail (Misha) Alperin is a musical nomad. Not only between territorieshe was born in Ukraine, grew up in Moldavia, and began to gain his reputation while residing in Moscow, where he founded the Moscow Art Trio with horn player Arkady Shilkloper and traditional singer Sergei Starostin. Since 1993 he has lived in Oslo, where he is a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music (among his students are pianists Helge Lien and Morten Qvenild of In The Country and Susanna and the Magical Orchestra). He is a nomad between traditions and genres, studying classical music but soon finding himself earning his living at Moldavian weddings and skillfully integrating elements of Russian and Balkan folk melodies, jazz and rock into his music.
His solo piano recital in Tel Aviv was a rare opportunity to encounter the many sides of this original musician. The first new suite that Alperin played was in line with his recent releases for ECM, in which he usually conforms with the icy minimalism of the prestigious label. The suite offered ten variations on a Nordic folk tune, and Alperin colored each variation with different shades and timbres, lingering on every notesometime for secondsand using his commanding touch of the piano and his wide harmonic vocabulary. He interpreted this simple tune in surprising waysas a modern classical piece, as a free jazz improvisationuntil he reduced it in the closing variation to a simple slow reading of the song itself.
The second new suite presented another side of Alperin, the funny and quirky one. The suite "My Dance" combined elements of swing jazz, Moldavian and Russian dances and even hints of Nordic folk music, and Alperin conjured these contrasting themes in a dazzling way, spicing the theme with seemingly foreign ingredients, and packing it into a provocative and delicious musical smorgasbord, while dancing and hopping around the piano.
For the first encore Alperin brought out a large metronome, and improvised an amusing piece in which he tried to rebel against the silent tyranny of the mechanical time-keeper. Alperin grunted, growled and mocked the metronome to no avail, until he dutifully complied with its rhythm. The second encore was a short meditative piece that was a heartfelt tribute to one of his lasting influences, Bill Evans. The audience cried for more.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.