By Bob Protzman | Published August 2016
This unusual music is an excellent reminder of why artists and listeners respect and love jazz and keep it thriving despite a difficult marketplace. The adventurous and versatile Israeli pianist Anat Fort leads a trio comprising Gary Wang on double bass and Roland Schneider and drums, and they are joined by guest Gianluigi Trovesi on alto clarinet.
The ensemble’s music is gentle and lovely, in turns thunderous, classical and avant-garde. Its specific brand of free-jazz, a combination of composed and improvised sounds, recalls electric Miles and Weather Report; it’s surprising, full of abrupt and dynamic changes.
The album spans 12 pieces, all composed by Fort, who shows a penchant for playing softly, as if each note were precious. But she can also be forceful, especially during the band’s many collective surges. (One flaw of the album is that these swells in volume occur too often, diminishing the element of surprise.)
Wang gets a deep rumbling bottom to many of the tunes, and plays a number of full-bodied, excellent solos. Trovesi is incredible, coaxing all sorts of reed sounds—as well as a series of honks—from his alto clarinet.
Fort’s musicians have equal stake in the creative process here, moving in and out of the spotlight on different tunes. But on a two-part piece titled “Song Of The Phoenix II,” they play as one and are absolutely thrilling.
On “Murmuration,” the group ranges from rhapsodic to raucous, and Fort and band come closest to mainstream melody-making on “It’s Your Song,” featuring a fine solo by Wang. But right after that, the group segues into a screaming mode that will have listeners jumping out of their chairs.
If there’s another Achilles heel of this album, it’s that it uses the same format too often, with loud outbursts that wear on the listener. But it’s worth the ride.
Birdwatching: First Rays; Earth Talks; Not The Perfect Storm; It's Your Song; Jumpin' In; Milarepa Part 1; Song Of The Phoenix I; Song Of The Phoenix II; Murmuration; Meditation For A New Year; Inner Voices; Sun. (48:23)
Personnel: Anat Fort, piano; Gary Wang, double bass; Roland Schneider, drums; Gianluigi Trovesi, alto clarinet.