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Interview with Misha Alperin

downloadLife inspired my music. Music inspired my life. Music is just a mirror, nothing more.

In march I interviewed Ukrainian pianist, composer and professor of music Misha Alperin.

Alperin was born in Kamenez Podolsky, Ukraine and grew up in Moldavia, where he was classically trained. In 1980, he formed one of the first Moldavian jazz ensembles. He moved to Moscow in the 1980s and founded the Moscow Art Trio with Arkady Shilkloper and folk singer Sergey Nikolaevich Starostin. Since 1993 he has lived in Oslo, Norway; he is professor of music at the Norwegian Academy of Music. He has released several works on ECM Records (wikipedia.org).

Along with Shilkloper, who is wedded to melancholy by his choice of instrument, he has carved out a corner of World jazz and made it his own, a gentle, folksy idiom which never quite sounds so much improvised as tentatively remembered from long ago “(the Penguin Guide to Jazz).


Mr.Alperin, you’re active in music for more than 3 decades. How has jazz music evolved since you started performing? Is jazz the right label for your music?

I think, Jazz is not the right label for my compositions. But I am a kind of improvising musician. My inspirations goes beyond so called rhythmical music and that’s why ECM was a right record company for me. Somebody told me, that he thinks I am a jazz musician, who never plays jazz. I like that. I like music more than jazz.

One of the first jazzrecords I bought was “Wave of sorrow”, you made together with Arkady Shilkloper, playing French horn, jagdhorn and fluegelhorn. It is more than jazz or classical or folkmusic. It was your first album for ECM. Your record is described: ”The atmosphere is dim yet also sparkling, as if it were a harsh present slumbering behind the illusory veil of a memory, fond and forever lost.” (ECM-reviews) How do you look back at this album?

Wave of sorrow “ was a special album for me and Arkady Shilkloper. It was like a first love. You will never forget it. This record is full of big contrasts. That time I was inspired of Balkan and Jewish music (and at the same time dreaming.)

In 1998 you recorded North Story, I think a more coherent, balanced album than “Wave of Sorrow”, as In a review of the album Ron Welburn states: “Though Alperin’s roots are eastern European, the CD’s atmosphere invokes Norwegian sentiments”(Jazztime.com, march 1999). In 1993 you moved from Moscow to Oslo and settled there as professor of music at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Do you think these changes influenced your look at, and style, of music?

About the North. It is easy to hear the differences in my music today. No Balkan inspirations anymore. Why not? I live already 20 years in Norway. I know that not every artist is so sensitive to his surroundings where he lives ,but I am influenced always. Even this happens without my wish, totally unconscious.

In 2008 you recorded Her First Dance. The album reunites you with Shilkloper and the German cellist Anja Lechner.” It’s barely a jazz record in the usual sense, but it can’t be put in a single category, except the one marked Special.” (John Fordham in the Guardian, march 2008). It was your first new recording for ECM in 10 years. Why didn’t you record for this label, which “seemed tailor-made for you, fitting its image of northern-European melancholy” as John Fordham says, for so long?

From 2003-2005 I was ill and almost didn’t work. These years I wrote music for Moscow Art trio CD “Instead of making children” for Jaro records as well as I recorded my other “ethno “ recordings for this label. So, my recordings for ECM are different from my recordings for Jaro records. As well I have no exclusive deal with ECM, as most of the artists. Depending on whether Manfred likes the idea or not….


You are a member of the Moscow Art Trio (together with Shilkloper and folksinger Sergey Starostin, which was founded in 1990. In 2007 the trio registered a live concert with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra which appeared in 2008 at the album Village Variations. The theme is a medieval rural wedding, inspired partly by the films of Sergei Paradjanov, and partly by your experience playing in Moldavian wedding bands. “An endless night at a medieval village wedding.

Guests are dancing. Their faces very serious and stiff. But not for long. Soon the wine will go to their heads and change their moods dramatically…” as you say (www.alperin.no). Music full of moods and memories of past lives. Please, can you tell me more about it?

Does music inspire your life, or does your life inspire your music? Or both?


Yes. Life inspired my music. Music inspired my life. Music is just a mirror, nothing more. I am growing and my taste is changing. Many things that were important and beautiful for me before, even some years ago, are important nor beautiful for me today. But still something has never been changed. Something remains the same. Life experience is influencing this process ,but how –I don’t know.

A few questions for you as a jazzpianist.


Charlie Parker. This year it’s fifty-eight years ago he has died . Sheila Jordan said in january to me in an interview: “people don’t talk about him anymore,The younger generation of jazzmusicians say they are inspired by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Parker is a forgotten part of jazzmusic. That’s a pity, because he is an important part of the jazztradition.” Do you regard yourself as a part of this jazztradition?


About Parker. He was very special. I can guess why younger musicians are not inspired by him anymore. I think bebop has too much influenced all jazz musicians without asking their permission. If you see what I mean. Bebop is like a heavy virus. Big Temptation. Once you get it ,you will never get rid of it. Maybe that’s why young jazz musicians are a bit sceptical. It is a very narrow system. It is almost not possible to talk about freedom of improvisation, but that system was perfect for Parker and others. Not for everybody. Hard bop and modal experiences opened up new horizons for improvisers.

download (4)Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you have in store for us?


I have today several new projects, which are not finished yet. Amongst them a new project with a Russian accordeon player singer Evelina Petrova and a Norwegian percussionist, beneath a duoproject with vibraphone, And I am working on a new recording with the Moscow Art trio and friends.


Further reading on: http://www.jaro.de/?s=alperin&submit.x=-909&submit.y=-533 (website recordlabel Jaro)

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mikhail-alperin-mn0000897246 (Allmusic)

http://www.alperin.no/ (website Misha Alperin)

and: http://www.rferl.org/content/misha-alperin-jazz-pianist-creativity-unknown/24944856.html (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)


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