The title tells the story. This is the sound of a musician alone, at his home in Norway. Improvising, reflectively, upon his own piano. As Misha Alperin says, "The mind was inert, the ears alert, and the music born practically without revisions. Improvisation here is simply the paintbrush with the help of which you can be honest in the presence of the night." One night in February 1998, Alperin turned on his tape recorder. He remembered that this night marked the 21st anniversary of his father's death. And with this thought in mind he began to play; he had not set out to make an album, nor was there any thought of an audience in mind. The music that he plays on "At Home", therefore, is unfiltered. The listener can almost hear his thoughts, and the emotional depth of the music is unmistakable.
Is it "jazz"' There are perhaps oblique connections to the soliloquies of Paul Bley or Bill Evans, but there are also affinities with modern composition. Alperin dedicates one piece to Olivier Messiaen; points of comparison could also be found with Ferderico Mompou or Hans Otte. And in Norway, Alperin has also made contact to local folk traditions - the tune called "Halling" is based upon a Norwegian folk dance.
In between all these points - jazz, modern composition, folk, the old Jewish music of his former homeland - Alperin's playing on "At Home" makes of such influences a tender, improvised music with a character all its own. Its also a music that echoes the peripatetic biography its maker. Alperin has led a nomad's life far from the world's jazz metropolises.
He was born in the Ukraine in 1956 and grew up in rural Bessarabia in the eastern part of Moldavia. He played with folk musicians while also studying composition and piano, and was subsequently a member of the Moldavian Jazz Ensemble of saxophonist/violinist Semjon Shirman. Alperin came late to jazz. He did not even hear recordings of Charlie Parker and Coltrane until he was 24. Overwhelmed by the strength of the music, he transcribed solos by the great hornmen and endeavoured to adapt them for the keyboard. He had played the piano music of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich extensively, but nonetheless found the transition to a predominantly improvised mode called for the development of a different skills. The first jazz pianists who caught his attention were Art Tatum, Red Garland, Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano and Keith Jarrett.
Alperin moved to Moscow in 1983 where he met the french horn and flugelhorn virtuoso Arkady Shilkloper - then working with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre and the Bolshoi Brass Quintet - and began, experimentally, to cross-reference elements of the Russian and Romanian folks musics of the Moldavian region with his subjective understanding of the jazz tradition. "All folk music belongs to the same family, and I wish to break down barriers and borders not only geographically, but also historically - the borders between epochs. If you listen closely to Moldavian folk music, you come across structures that are well-known all through the Eastern world, And, you know, sometimes when I listen to, say, Garbarek's music, even his joik, I could swear I recognize it as Moldavian."
The first European tour of the Alperin/Shilkloper duo brought the duo to Oslo, where they risked a visit to the Rainbow Studio and taped a demo with Jan Erik Kongshaug. Soon afterwards, Manfred Eicher tracked them down in Zürich and proposed the recording that became Wave Of Sorrow in 1989, attracting the interest of the European critics. "Alperin's compositions are impossible to classify in terms of genre,' Thomas Rothschild wrote in the Frankfurter Rundschau. "They are for the most part aphoristic pieces, indebted as much to Bartók, Schnittke or Kurtág as to Jarrett or Corea. They are unique indeed, and must be heard."
Misha Alperin now teaches at the Norwegian State Academy of Music, and has become a central figure in the new improvised music of the Far North. Many of the young Scandinavian players acknowledge his influence.
"At Home" is his fourth ECM recording. It follows Wave Of Sorrow 1989, North Story(1995, the first recording following his move to Norway) and First Impression (1997,with John Surman).
Alperin's touring activities in 2001 include solo performances in Germany, Russia, France, Israel and Switzerland and work with the Moscow Art Trio in Russia, Germany, Sardinia and Austria.