Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Long Story

A Long Story
By Anat Fort
ECM 1994

The title of Anat Fort’s ECM debut refers to the story behind A Long Story’s release, starting with Fort’s pursuit of the legendary Paul Motian to play on her session. At first reluctant, the drummer was so enthusiastic about what he heard, he championed her to ECM’s Manfred Eicher. Three years later: an overnight success story is born. Not to cut a good story short, but the important thing in the long run is the music, and Fort’s A Long Story is impressive.

Story starts with the first of three variations on Fort’s “Just Now” theme. The first is a pensive trio performance, in which Fort’s graceful melody unfolds patiently, as Motian’s supportive brushwork testifies to why Fort sought him out. It is followed by another beautiful original arranged for the trio, “Morning: Good.” Here Fort shows a delicate touch on the piano, giving ample solo space to Ed Schuller on bass, but maintaining the lines of the lovely melody.

Schuller’s bass introduces “Lullabye,” a quartet feature, adding Perry Robinson on clarinet, sounding bluesier than one might expect from his freer work in the past. As a free improvisation between Fort and Robinson, “Chapter Two” is probably closer to Robinson’s free jazz roots, but the mood is playful, not abrasive.

With the second variation of “Just Now,” a thoughtful piano solo for the leader, the hues of Story turn darker. The original “Not a Dream?” is an accessible, but unsettling melody. “Rehaired” has a nervous energy, given urgency by Motian’s cymbal accents. Story finishes with the third variation of “Just Now,” this one a brief, mournful quartet.

Born in Israel, one would expect to hear international influences in Fort’s work, and there is a certain exoticism in “As Two/Something ‘Bout Camels,” which starts as a piano/clarinet duet, segueing into a feature for Robinson on ocarina.

Fort’s compositions are consistently rewarding. In addition to the stand out “Morning: Good,” Fort’s “Not the Perfect Storm” is a fascinating composition that hints at a brewing storm and flirts with turbulence, before resolving peacefully.

Throughout Story, the interplay between the musicians is striking. Fort is a very talented musician and composer. One hopes Story is the start of a long major label career for her.

(Story releases today, and Fort will be celebrating with a special performance at Birdland March 13.)