And If is the follow-up to Israeli pianist Anat Fort's ECM debut a few years back, A Long Story. This time around, her trio consists of double bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider (both of whom Fort has worked with for years), as opposed to Ed Schuller and the legendary Paul Motian who filled those roles on her debut. Despite the change in the trio's line-up, And If is a remarkable modern jazz recording.
Sometimes, jazz music is not all about shifting melodies, complex time signatures, avant-garde or free range arrangements, or uptempo, be-bop influenced passages. Jazz can also be quite gorgeous and majestic, which the majority of And If most certainly is. Fort wrote all the songs on this CD, and she has a definite melodic sense that combines the essence of true jazz with the accessibility of pop. The dreamy "Clouds Moving" or the absolutely engaging "Some" both come down to excellent musical execution from Fort, Wang, and Schneider, but the melodies written by the pianist make these tunes instantly memorable. Fort's skills on the piano are quite impressive, as her fingers glide over the ivories with a grace that you don't often hear, able to play complex passages yet delivering the notes in a way that is catchy and recognizable, much like the work of Dave & Don Gruisin, as well as David Benoit. The near 10 minute "Something 'Bout Camels" is more like traditional ECM fare, a dark yet still majestic foray into vast soundscapes, with Fort's yearning lines reaching over the elastic bass of Wang and Schneider's tribal beats and cymbal work.
Fans of traditional jazz will love the all-too brief swing of "If" and the sultry 'jazz lounge' swagger of "Minnesota". Of course, the trio doesn't forget to throw in a complex little ripper, which comes in the form of the short ditty "Nu", a real tasty little number with dissonant piano lines and tricky rhythms from Wang & Schneider. For many, the real gems here will probably be the two tracks that bookend the CD, "Paul Motian (1)" and "Paul Motian (2)", two wonderful songs that obviously pay tribute to the great Motian. Fort no doubt felt that working with Motian was extremely influential, and wanted to pay tribute to the drum legend. Great melodies, sweeping arrangments...just gorgeous stuff here.
And If is simply an all around joy to listen to. Recorded in Oslo, Norway and expertly produced, And If is one of those jazz recordings that demands your attention, but is also a great choice for setting a mood for your next romantic get together. Can't go wrong with that.
- Paul Motian (1)
- Clouds Moving
- En If
- Something 'Bout Camels
- Paul Motian (2)