Misha Alperin w/John Surman: First Impression (ECM 1664)

First Impression

First Impression

Misha Alperin piano
John Surman soprano and baritone saxophones
Arkady Shilkloper French horn, flugelhorn
Terje Gewelt double-bass
Jon Christensen drums
Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen percussion
Recorded December 1997 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Ukrainian pianist and composer Misha Alperin joins forces for the first time in session with British reedist John Surman (a last-minute replacement for Tore Brunborg) in this melodious, spontaneous set. Augmented by Arkady Shilkloper on French horn and flugelhorn, Terje Gewelt on bass, and Jon Christensen on drums, their hypnotic nexus breathes ounces of thematic life into the “Overture” in watery, stepwise motion. Surman’s reptilian soprano takes us in some unexpected directions throughout a holistic introduction, while his unmistakable baritone threads resilient cables through “Twilight house” and “City Dance.” The first of these is where the session truly comes to life through his interactions with Alperin, while the latter serves a touch of groove in a veritable trill buffet (think Snakeoil). “Movement” features classical percussionist Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen (heard previously on No Birch) in a spindly improv, the pointillism and melancholy draw of which only thinly veil its composed undercurrent. A lovely solo from Shilkloper on French horn rises like a paper lantern lit and offered to the sky.

Yet these are but the roofing to the album’s five “Impressions,” each a pillar in the dust. Most of these are latticed pieces in chambered combinations, achieving darkest patina in “Second Impression,” in which Surman’s soprano dances like a wick-hugging flame, and whispering new beginnings in “Fifth Impression.” Neither is as intimate as the title track, in its way a profound one. In printing terms, the first impression is always the most crisp, the most sought after, but here we get something so ephemeral that it hardly seems to stick to the page. In its solo piano expanse is something metaphysical, a catch of moonlight in the mind.

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