Misha Alperin: Night (ECM 1769)

Night

Misha Alperin
Night

Anja Lechner cello
Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen percussion, marimba, voice
Misha Alperin piano, claviola
Recorded April 4, 1998 at Vossa Jazz Festival, Norway
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Atmospherically speaking, Misha Alperin has created some of ECM’s most haunting discs. In the wake of one such disc, At Home, the Ukrainian pianist-composer surprises with yet another unexpected turn of events. The event in question is the commissioned performance at the 1998 VossaJazz Festival in Norway documented here. The end result is a new beginning, a flowering of innovation and sensory breadth.

With German cellist Anja Lechner and Norwegian percussionist Hans-Kristian Kjos Sørensen in tow, Alperin’s keys open the curtain with “Tuesday,” and in that Everest shape reveal the touch of two bows: one at Lechner’s strings, the other humming along the edge of Sørensen’s cymbals. As the trio settles into a spiral of sleep, regularities begin to emerge. Thus welcomed into the performance, one can note the figural language that is Alperin’s forte. His body arches, conforms to what is being played. His physicality comes out especially in “Tango,” which fronts his sweet descriptions before delicate snare rolls and legato support from Lechner, the latter switching to pizzicato to buoy every footnote. After a duet between Lechner and Alperin (the tender “Adagio,” which absorbs breath in lieu of exhale), the dotted marimba of “Second Game” counters with some delightful surprises. From the persuasive beauty of its Steve Reichean introduction to jocular turns and thematic quick-changes that recall The Carnival of the Animals of Saint-Saëns, it encompasses a thousand positive memories. These render the quiet spirit of “Dark Drops” all the subtler. The title track is evocation par excellence, weaving cricketing percussion through a loom of moonlight. Timpani and strained vocals make for some unusual effects in “Heavy Hour,” a ritual thesis of howling abandon. The suite concludes with “Far, Far…,” which carries us beyond the implied “away” to a place where lullabies alter the sky as would a luthier achieve a perfect curve of tiger maple.

Night is a topographical palate. From hills to caves, cliffs and open fields, it is a regression to the womb, a reverie of cloud-shift and prenatal lightning. Like etcher’s acid, it renders its images in reverse, righted when printed on the mind.

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