Anat Fort Trio: And If (ECM 2109)

And if

Anat Fort Trio
And If

Anat Fort piano
Gary Wang double-bass
Roland Schneider drums
Recorded February 2009 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Anat Fort returns to ECM, now with the members of her working trio: bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider. Together they put a decade of working experience into And If, which burrows deeper into the compositional soil tilled on A Long Story. With that album in mind the trio pays homage to Paul Motian—whose encouragement led to the first ECM collaboration—in two tracks dedicated to the master drummer. The first begins the disc with poetry metered by the heart, beating in response to life’s changing climates. Like the passing of one thought to another, it shuffles melodic impulses farther down the line. “Paul Motian (2)” closes the circle, taking inspiration from its namesake by never once succumbing to the pitfalls of predictability. Such tenderness justifies imagery like that of “Clouds Moving,” which proceeds with Vince Guaraldi-like ebullience in the ground line while luminous harmonies in the right hand draw rivers catching sun during flyby. Schneider’s feel for cymbals admirably fills Motian’s absence, as do his brushes beneath Fort’s arcs of flight in “Minnesota.”

Although the album is not without a clipped feather or two (the fleeting “If” and “Nu” balance tenderness and swing, respectively), for the most part it spreads its wings broadly. One cannot help but detect a classical tinge to the wind beneath. “En If” is but one example. Its mastery builds off primary colors, awaiting the light of day to mix variations between prose and poetry. The former we get from Fort’s storytelling fingers, while the latter flows effortlessly from the rhythm section.

“Something ’Bout Camels” revisits material from Fort’s label debut, given here a flowering treatment. The daybreak of Wang’s arco introduction canopies a desert sleeping soundly. A settlement stirs: eyebrows twitch, bodies stand upright, legs move, hands work, and the beats of earthen carriage guide wheels to turn. Schneider’s bassing droops, swishing away the flies with its tail and folding the wind into parchment, that it might calligraph Fort’s footfalls.

Yet nowhere does the trio come together so effortlessly as it does in “Lanesboro.” This ballad in a classic mode is the epitome of gorgeous. Like water over rocks, it conforms to the shapes of its progression with unforced, organic flow. The lyrical support completes Fort’s picture with understated bliss.

An anthem for the soul.

(To hear samples of And If, click here.)

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