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Interview with Misha Alperin

June 11, 2013 1 comment

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)

 

Interview with Norma Winstone

February 2, 2013 1 comment

norma winstoneI have been lucky in all my playing partners.

Last week I interviewed Norma Winstone.

Winstone sang in the early sixties mostly in pubs in East End of London (where she was born). She did sing around the Dagenham area too  (Norma moved there when she was 10) but quite a few of the London pubs featured jazz at the time and were a great learning opportunity.  Later on Norma joined Michael Garrick’s band in 1968. Her first recording came the following year, with Joe Harriott. In 1971 she was voted top singer in the Melody Maker Jazz Poll. She recorded the album, Edge of Time, under her own name in 1972.[1] Winstone contributed vocals to Ian Carr’s Nucleus on that band’s 1973 release Labyrinth, a jazz-rock concept albumbased on the Greek myth about the Minotaur.

Winstone has worked with many major European musicians and visiting Americans, as well as with most of her peers in British jazz including Garrick, John Surman, Michael Gibbs, Mike Westbrook and her former husband, the pianist John Taylor. With Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler she has performed and recorded five albums for ECM as a member of the trio Azimuth between 1977 and 1994  their CD “How It Was Then… Never Again” was given four stars by Down Beatmagazine. In addition she made an album with the American pianist Jimmy Rowles (Well Kept Secret, 1993). (Wikipedia and Norma Winstone)

Norma Winstone is a singer of of brilliant virtuosity and flexibility; she can handle very complex lines and wide intervals, improvise with the fluency of an instrumentalist and also breathe life into a simple song. Her favourite singers are Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams and Carmen McRae, and other inspirational figures for her are Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor (Ian Carr, Jazz, the essential companion).

Mrs. Winstone, you’re active in music for more than  4 decades. How has jazz music evolved since you started performing or singing. We know there are labels for different kinds of music, can we label your  music?
I would rather that music did not have to be labeled. I guess the music I am involved in and have been involved in for many years is jazz. What I wanted to be involved in was music like I had heard from Miles Davis, John Coltrane etc but I have always loved cassical music too and I think that somehow the music has evolved to include these influences too.
According to the Penguin Guide to Jazz, “Edge of Time” is your best album. Is this your favorite too? Which album you produced do you like best? Why?  Is this album your best appreciated album?
No, this is not my favourite album and I can’t see how they think it is my best. It has a spirit of the jazz scene in London at the time and it was fairly ambitious for a first recording under my own name, but I was much better recorded later on ECM. I began to be able to listen to my voice and hear what I had hoped I  sounded like. Edge of Time did have an urgency about it and was unusual in terms of a vocal album at the time (and probably even now), which is probably why the Penguin Guide thinks it’s the best, because I sound as if I am searching. I really like “Somewhere Called Home”, “Azimuth ’85” and “Distances” because I think that here I achieved something beautiful. “Distances” was nominated for a Grammy and won various awards for best vocal album so I would say that this has been my best appreciated album. 
Bill Evans. He’s been your inspiration, as he’s been for a generation of  (jazz)musicians. This year it’s thirty-three years ago he died. What does this mean to you?
Bill Evans always touched me with his playing. I saw him twice at Ronnie Scott’s club and as soon as he touched the piano he made it sound so beautiful, even though at the time it wasn’t such a great piano. He always made me cry. He had his own voice which is what we always want to hear from a musician. His harmonies were always the best you’re likely to hear.
Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues and what should they learn form you? Are you inspired by them as you were by the colleagues you played with in the seventies and  the early eighties?
I am always inspired when I sing with musicians who love the music and are prepared to be a bit adventurous. I don’t know what I’ve learned from my younger colleagues except how to make music with them. It is a precious thing when you find musicians with whom you don’t have to discuss anything and playing together just works. I have been lucky in all my playing partners.
norma winstone  visibelli group
Jazzcritic John Fordham called your cooperation with pianist Jimmy Rowles one of the highlights of the mid-nineties in his book Shooting From the Hip (published in 1996). How did you experience working with Mr.Rowles?
It was a great experience even to meet him and singing with him was a delight. I always loved the way he played the whole piano (not just the middle), rather like Duke Ellington. I remember breaking into a smile when we slipped into time after the verse of “Where or When”: it felt just right. He said that he felt that it was his job to make the singer sound as good as possible!
Next tuesday I will interview well known jazzsinger Sheila Jordan, who was very succesfull with her album Portrait of Sheila (1962), do you have a question for her?
 I love Sheila. She is such a warm and lovely human being and it shines through her singing…. what could I ask her? How did she remain so dedicated and determined to carry on through the bleak times?  but I guess I know the answer. She loves the music. What more do you need? To keep healthy, I guess, to cope with all the travelling.
Is there jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth? According to saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman the future of jazz lies with how it will be absorbed and transformed by parts of the world where it is new to the people. Do you agree with him?
 I’m not sure I understand what he means… do we have to keep on until we’ve run out of people who have not been exposed to jazz? Lots of young musicians are still interested to play jazz albeit sometimes with influences from different genres of music as Dave suggests. It shouldn’t  have to stay the same. I think though that it gets more and more difficult for our youth to be exposed to jazz by chance, as it doesn’t have enough exposure in the media, but it was never easy anyway. It will survive in one form or another.
Your musical activities span a wide range of styles and combinations. Which projects do you have in store for us?
 I have just recorded again with my trio (Glauco Venier, piano and Klaus Gesing, soprano sax and bass clarinet) and we have included some more contemporary/ popular songs as well as originals. At the moment we seem to be about conveying the meaning of a song more than experimenting, but that may change. I will also be working in England this year with a group of great British musicians we call “The Printmakers” including Nikki Iles, piano, Mike Walker, guitar, Mark Lockheart, saxophones, Steve Watts, bass and James Maddren, drums. There is quite an age range in this group but we seem to have the same musical objectives. Other than this we don’t know what’s round the corner but as long as the voice holds out I shall be singing.
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