Funeral Dance is dedicated to the late Ukrainian-born, Oslo-based pianist-composer-educator Mikhail (Misha) Alperin (1956-2018), who was the teacher, mentor and friend of Norwegian pianist-composer Helge Lien, and still continues to influence his work. The album, with Lien Trio – double bass player Johannes Eick and drummer Knut Aalefjær plus tenor sax player Tore Brunborg (who collaborated before with Lien’s previous trio and Polish violinist Adam Bałdych, in Brothers, ACT, 2017), celebrates Alperin’s life, and his love for singing, dancing and living through his music, but also mourns his untimely death that has «left a void in our world that can never be filled».
Shortly after Alperin’s passing, Lien was asked by Stavanger’s Maijazz Festival to team up with Tore Brunborg for a special concert at the 2019 festival. Lien and Brunborg composed new music and performed exactly one year after Alperin’s death with Lien’s previous trio – double bass player Mats Eilertsen and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen. Later that year, Lien performed the new music with his new trio at the Beijing Jazz Festival in China but managed to record it after the dreadful Covid-19 pandemic at Propeller Studio in Oslo in January 2022.
Lien says that he had Alperin in mind when he composed the music and the music that he and Brunborg clearly captures the playful and passionate, wise and soulful, intense but equipped with a unique sense of humor persona of Alperin, but, obviously, leans toward the melancholic side. The title of the album, Funeral Dance, reflects Alperin’s wish that we celebrate his life with singing and dancing instead of mourning his death. But Lien and Brunborg’s beautiful, lyrical compositions (plus a beautiful adaptation of Gabriel Fauré’s «Après un Rêve») correspond with all the contradictions in their musical lives in the recent unsettling years or in Alperin’s musical career. But these kinds of subtle contradictions, best expressed in Lien’s mysterious «Bømlo» and the mournful dance of «Wonderful Selection of Gloomy Keys», are the materials that make the music flow in an organic manner and with such a captivating emotional power.
A moving and most beautiful homage to a great, unique musician.
Helge Lien (piano), Tore Brunborg (tenor saxophone), Johannes Eick (double bass), Knut Aalefjær (drums)