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Misha Alperin: Her First Dance

Although it was introduced in the 1950s, it took until the late 20th century for the “Third Stream” aesthetic to coalesce, most often in the work of classically trained European musicians who embraced jazz, and most often on the ECM label, based in Munich.

Misha Alperin is one of the quintessential current representatives of this music, which no longer has a name. He was born in the Ukraine and was a classical pianist until he heard Charlie Parker and John Coltrane at 24. What he plays on Her First Dance is jazz (we can choose to call it that) of stark, minimalist melodicism suspended within equally meaningful silences. There are three musicians, but they all play on only one track, “Tiflis.” Anja Lechner is a respected classical cellist, a genuine improviser, and a uniquely expressive new voice in jazz. Arkady Shilkloper, who has worked in the Moscow Symphony, plays immaculate French horn and flugelhorn.

The piano/cello and piano/horn duets here are immersions in the pure sensual epiphanies of sonority. Lechner’s flawless tone is like an embodiment of spiritual yearning. Shilkloper can be nimble (the title track) or slow as lingering sorrow (“The Russian Song”), but always flows like molten gold. Alperin touches the piano, and gets a ringing sound from it, like no one in jazz. On the uptempo “Vayan” (one of five solo piano pieces), his articulation cuts like a scalpel. But he combines surgical precision with a poetic sensibility. “Frozen Tears” is just one whispering piano chord and isolated gestures from Lechner and from Alperin’s own right hand, floating in and out of the stillness.

Originally Published