Monday, January 29, 2007

Anat Fort in Concert

When Anat Fort’s new CD A Long Story releases on March 6 you can expect it to be reviewed widely because there is a good story behind it. Fort, with the help of some mutual associates, was able to convince drummer Paul Motian to play on the CD. Motian was so pleased with the results, he recommended it to ECM’s Manfred Eicher, and suddenly Fort found herself on the roster of one of the premiere jazz labels in the world.

As good as the story might be the music is what matters in the long run. Last night in St. Peter’s, Fort and her quartet played their final American concert before setting off on a European tour (where the CD is already available). Hearing them is convincing—her music definitely backs up the story. With Perry Robinson on clarinet, Ed Schuller on bass, and Roland Schneider on drums, Fort played a set of striking originals.

She varied the program nicely with quartet, trio, duo, and solo performances, mostly, but not entirely, drawn from the forthcoming Long Story. Fort’s original “Just Now” was heard in two very different versions, as a solo variation and as a vehicle for the entire quartet. “Morning: Good” is a particularly beautiful composition, and could well be the favored radio track of Long Story.

There was a high degree of musical empathy evident amongst the quartet. Replacing Motian is a daunting task, but Schneider’s percussion gave a rich texture to the proceedings. Schuller contributed some high caliber pizzicato solos and supported Fort admirably. Hearing a distinctive musician like Robinson is always a cool thing. Well before Don Byron and Chris Speed, he was one of the few artists bringing the clarinet into more adventurous contexts. He was also heard on ocarina for one particularly effective performance.

Fort has sparkling touch on the keys and a strong compositional sense. She identifies Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett as influences, and that comes through in her playing. In addition to that introspectiveness, there is also sometimes a playful slightly off-kilter quality, most pronounced last night in the trio performances.

It’s great to hear about a musician having success after years of paying dues, and it was rewarding to hear original music from Fort’s quartet.