Anat Fort Trio featuring Gianluigi Trovesi ‘Birdwatching’ (ECM) 5/5

anat-fort-trioIf the name is new to you, then Israeli born pianist Anat Fort has quietly developed her own portfolio with the ECM label, recording ‘A long story’ in 2004 and ‘And If’ from 2010. Her third album marks a triumphant return to collaborating with long-term friend and alto clarinettist, Italian musician Gianluigi Trovesi and, as whole, the new album has a wonderful contemplative quality that marks out outstanding musical endeavours in general, and from an ECM perspective in tone at least has similarities with the early recordings on the label with Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem. That parallel is probably no accident insofar as both musicians come from a part of the globe, namely the Middle East and North Africa, where the musical surroundings of nature form an integral part of their work, and in the specific case of Anat Fort, this has served as the overriding inspiration for the new album. Commentators have rightly pointed to the melodicism of ‘It’s your song’ as one of the major highlights and there is no question that the Jarrett influence is most evident here. However, that is but one of the joys on offer and this writer immediately warmed to the reflective piano and alto clarinet conversation on ‘Song of the Phoenix II’ which has a lyrical quality that one might normally associate with the material of a gifted singer-songwriter. The subtle accompaniment of the rhythm section from double bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider are showcased wonderfully on ‘Murmuration’, where piano and alto clarinet take centre stage. While the trio work as a cohesive whole throughout, the addition of Trovesi adds a brooding intensity that lifts the music way beyond the above average. Romantic classical influences have clearly played a role in Fort’s musical upbringing, but after a long-term residency in Brooklyn where the pianist has been able to hone her craft, a return to Israel seems to have worked wonders with her compositional skills and the attractive melodies are a direct result. This is one of the most understated ECM recordings of the year and it should be overlooked at your peril. Already a candidate for piano recording of the year.

Tim Stenhouse