Anat Fort

A Long Story
ECM 1994

Symmetrical and ornamental, Israeli-born pianist Anat Fort’s compositions and playing seem geared more towards the comfort zone of her guests – bassist Ed Schuller, drummer Paul Motian and reedist Perry Robinson – than establishing a unique identity.

Crucial to this arrangement is the drummer, who once piloted the influential combos of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans. His delicate cymbal taps and perceptive bounces shape the sounds as much as the tyro keyboardist. New York-based for a decade, among other projects, Fort was recently commissioned to create new arrangements of Israeli music. But no Middle Eastern tinges appear on this CD.

Instead Fort announces herself as a stylist wedded to the contemporary American piano tradition. Prodigious in her playing, she balances bravura invention from both hands with a gift for composing serpentine melodies. Most spectacular is “Not the Perfect Storm” where Motian’s circular rolls and rebounds accompany low-frequency pedal- expanded timbres and plinking chordal patterns. In just over seven minutes she references Broadway ballads and Romantic waltzes. Only on “Rehaired”, with staccato key clipping, though, does she move away from expected formulas.

It’s up to the perpetually inventive Robinson to disrupt the CD’s placidity. On “As Two/Something ‘Bout Camels” his split-tones growls spur Schuller to add gravitas to his feature – which pays dividends when the energized pianist instantly integrates his last notes into her solo. “Chapter Two” finds the clarinetist’s sluicing altissimo merging Klezmer-like cries and semi-classical glissandi causing Fort to turn her touch forte.

On her next CD, the pianist’s originality should be as prominent as her invention is here.

— Ken Waxman

— For CODA Issue 335