Misha Alperin: North Story (ECM 1596)

Misha Alperin
North Story

Misha Alperin piano
Arkady Shilkloper French horn, flugelhorn
Tore Brunborg tenor saxophone
Terje Gewelt double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Recorded September 1995 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Simultaneously drawing on his folk roots and paying homage to European jazz music’s openness to cross-cultural dialogue, Ukraine-born pianist and composer Misha Alperin gives us North Story, his paean to the selfsame region where fermented the vivid contributions already so well documented on ECM. Classically trained brass player Arkady Shilkloper, who became acquainted after hearing snatches of Alperin at practice from an open apartment window, joins the group on French horn and flugelhorn. Saxophonist Tore Brunborg, bassist Terje Gewelt, and drummer Jon Christensen round out the quintet. And what a quintet it is, for it is quite clear that this set of eight originals positively glistens under the breath, feet, and fingers of master craftsmen. That being said, the rewards require patience and an invested heart. Alperin’s painterly ways move as if in slow motion, taking in details and finding even more within them. Everything in the light of “Morning” takes shape by contrast, so that what may seem at first sluggish blossoms in hindsight of Alperin’s delicate fortitude. Shilkloper follows similarly delicate arcs in the two-part “Psalm” and “Ironical Evening,” each a prize of organic denouement so fine that it passes through fishermen’s nets unnoticed. The title track gives us a deeper version of the same, Christensen building his tracings into full-blown sketches as Brunborg’s erases in swaths of negative space. “Alone” finds Alperin just so in a lulling piano solo, providing reprieve from fitful slumber on the way to “Etude,” a lovely duet with Shilkloper that sounds like a lost track from Wave Of Sorrow. Its skittering lines and virtuosic doubling concretize the storytelling. This leaves only an arrangement of “Kristi Blodsdråper (Fucsia)” by Norwegian composer Harald Sæverud (1897-1992). It is a fitting epilogue to an album of ever-growing detail, which like the whole becomes a mirror as we back away from it, sounds blending into an all-encompassing hush of existence.


Alternate cover

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2 thoughts on “Misha Alperin: North Story (ECM 1596)

  1. Yet another remarkable cover photo. This is a release I came to quite late – but find it quite haunting in spots and an addictive listen. Mournful in places, a bit skittish in others, and with a rather unusual balance (it is hard to get quite the right volume, oddly)….I suspect many will miss this album but all who love ECM and its artists should give it try.

    1. I first encountered this album in high school. Not knowing who any of the players were at the time, I bought it based on the cover alone (in addition to the fact that it was on ECM!). Like many of the label’s great outliers, it has grown with me, just as I have grown with it.

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