Sit down. You’ve been rushing around all day, and you deserve to relax for an hour or so. Take off your uncomfortable shoes, have a glass of nice red wine—I recommend a good spicy Tempranillo—and turn on the other part of your brain, the one you have to turn off all day. We’re going to talk about Anat Fort.
She is an Israeli jazz pianist of great skill and subtety. Here, she plays with a dream band consisting of Ed Schuller on bass and the legendary Paul Motian on drums. The wisdom of this can be seen very early; the second song, “Morning: Good,” is basically a set-piece for Schuller, who plays one of the greatest solos ever recorded, vamping and vibing for almost three minutes without repeating a single idea. Fort’s own solo is lovely, but it is an afterthought, because there is no way to compete with something like that.
And then there is Motian. Just a few years ago, Fort dreamed that she would someday play with this 75-year-old grandmaster—now, they seem like an inseparable super-team. He is an extremely quiet drummer, and a lot of his accompaniment is hushed, minimal, almost pulse-like. But when the stakes are raised, like the modal mystery piece “Not a Dream?”, he rises to the occasion, hitting beautiful fills and cymbal runs. And on “Not the Perfect Storm”, he kicks things off with a muscle-bound display of post-boppery. The guy is a living legend, and he’s gold everywhere he goes.
Another guest, clarinetist Perry Robinson, drops in occasionally. Like everyone else here, he’s got heart and soul and skill to spare—his entrance on “Chapter-two” is something beautiful to behold, and his flirting interplay with Fort on “As Two/Something ‘Bout Camels” is fiery and memorable.
Fort, for her own part, is an extremely capable and lyrical soloist, with a canny sense of timing whether she is playing in a structured piece like the knotty “Rehaired” or free solo explorations such as “Chapter-one”. Like her solos, her compositions are open-ended and intelligent; her pieces are questions rather than answers. Several melodies spiral off into other melodies without ever really resolving themselves, but the listener really doesn’t mind, because the journey is more important than the destination. But a few, like “Just Now”, are indelible—especially so when repeated in three different ways throughout the album. (My favorite is “Part II”, a sexy solo piano joint.)
I’m glad we had a chance to talk, you and I. It’s pretty seldom that people can turn down the volume on this crazy world and really concentrate on things that really matter. Like comfortable shoes, and good spicy Spanish wine, and brilliant jazz albums like this.
// Notes from the Road
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