Misha Alperin has been something of a shadowy presence in the annals of ECM. His previous albums—namely, Wave Of Sorrow, North Story, and First Impression—marked him as an enigmatic musician of sparse yet effective language, at times of humor and gaiety. But if you want to know how the Ukrainian-born pianist’s heart beats, the forms his dreams take, let At Home be your looking glass. The aching lyricism of the title track, which opens this collection of improvised pieces, is all you need to know what’s going on: a private, reflective session surrounded by Alperin’s most familiar things. Recorded at his home in Norway, where he has lived for the past two decades, the program unfolds in a mosaic portrait of the artist in various stages of emotional awareness.
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.
Pianist Misha Alperin appears with a quintet on this set of mysterious original compositions. His longtime colleague, Arkady Shilkloper, plays French horn and flugelhorn and is joined by Tore Brunberg on tenor saxophone, Terje Gewelt on double bass, and ECM stalwart Jon Christensen on drums. Combining Russian folk, modern classical, and free jazz influences, Alperin's music ranges from the icy minimalism of "Morning" and "Alone" to the atonal fanfares of "Afternoon," the eerie unison melodies of "Psalm No. 1" and "Psalm No. 2," and the jumpy parallel-fifth motives of "Ironical Evening." Most memorable is the exquisite "North Story," a sparse invention framed by a descending pattern of seven gorgeous chords. In contrast, "Etude," one of the disc's more upbeat and exuberant pieces, is based on darting, tightly executed 16th-note patterns. The program ends with the sole non-original, Harald Saeverud's "Kristi-Blodsdraper (Fucsia)," a beautiful folkish ballad.