Review by Brad Walseth
A musical saga of nearly relentless wonderment - Isreali-born pianist Anat Fort's "A Long Story" is a wonderful new release by ECM. Recorded by the pianist with clarinetist Perry Robinson, double-bassist Ed Schuller and legendary drummer Paul Motian, this recording announces the ascent of a bright new star in the person of pianist/composer Fort.
Evoking a technique reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, with touches of Paul Bley (with whom she studied) and Bill Evans, Fort's playing style is effortless grace in oceanic motions. Nor does she linger in the shadows of her influences, as she has a voice profoundly entirely her own. Airy as sunlight, yet grounded in solid structure, her compositions delight both the heart and the head. And her choice of musicians is as stunning as her choice of chord voicings. Bassist Schuller has years of experience in left of center jazz circles and is a melodic yet powerful presence. Clarinet innovator Robinson brings both his talent and unique timbre to play as a key ingredient in the overall sound. And of drummer Motian, what more can be said? As perhaps the finest living jazz drum "colorist," the icon's responsive attention and sensitivity is simply astonishing.
Fort's somewhat Schoenbergian-tinged pieces flow one to another in impeccable manner. Some pieces feature the group in whole, while others feature Fort alone or in duets or trios. "Chapter Two" features Fort and Robinson in free-form dialogue, while the composition -"Just Now" is featured in three different variations played by the members in various configurations. This lends a pleasant string of continuity throughout the whole. There are elements of modern jazz, classical, Euro-jazz, and Middle-Eastern flavors mingled in these haunting works. And the interplay between the members is brilliant - a fact that is astounding especially considering the four had never played together before these sessions.
Robinson adds some birdlike ocarina in the second half of the moving "As Two/Something 'Bout Camels" (a song written about the Isreali/Palestinean conflict), and Motian's drum work - especially on "Rehaired" and "Not the Perfect Storm," is an absolute clinic in the art of drumming. But it is the pianist's framework that holds everything together, and in the end "authors" this long and engaging story.