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Anat Fort Trio: And If

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.

Track Listing

  1. Paul Motian (1)
  2. Clouds Moving
  3. En If
  4. Some
  5. Something 'Bout Camels
  6. If
  7. Lanesboro
  8. Minnesota
  9. Nu
  10. Paul Motian (2)

Added: November 12th 2010
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: ECM Records
Hits: 1655
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Anat Fort Trio: And If
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-11-11 23:33:42
My Score:

Anat Fort is an Israeli born jazz pianist who studied classical music when she was young and came to the United States in the mid '90s to study jazz. She has had some prominent teachers including Rufus Reid, Harold Mabern and Paul Bley. Her jazz trio, which includes German born Roland Schneider on drums and American bassist Gary Wang, has been together for about ten years.

The trio's first album on ECM Records was A Long Story released in 2007 and is followed by their brand new album And If. For me, this album represents the ECM label very well. The recording sounds beautiful and is some of the best trio jazz I have heard in a long time.

The music on And If is richly melodic and very easy to listen to. Fort's piano playing is very good as it ranges from a gentle washing of the keys to more bolder strokes. The music straddles the line between composition and improvisation and the band is such a tight knit group it is sometimes difficult to tell when the writing stops and the improve begins. The trio plays with a great sense of space giving all their instruments room to shine.

This is such a strong record it is hard to pick favourites but some that come to mind is the lovely "Clouds Moving" with its uplifting melody and "En If" featuring a soothing melody of sparse piano chords and deft cymbal work that resonates through the song.

As a tribute to drummer Paul Motian who was instrumental in getting A Long Story off the ground, the CD begins and ends with Paul Motian 1 and 2 respectively. Both songs are melodic with the first featuring gently flowing piano and the latter heading in a more improve direction with some background drumming that is simply outstanding.

The showcase piece is the almost ten minute "Something 'Bout Camels" starting with eerie strains of dissonance from Wang's bass which leads to some great interplay between piano, bass and drums before solo bass takes us back to those eerie sounds once again. Other highlights include "Nu", where Fort shows her tremendous skill and "Lanesboro", a slow languid piece marked by Fort's melodic piano and Schneider's interesting use of the snare drum.

This is about as eloquent as it gets and I encourage all jazz fans to give this one a try. A beautiful piece of music that will leave you breathless.

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