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May 2007

Anat Fort
A long story
ECM Records

ECM almost always makes its own recordings. A long story, recorded in March 2004 at Systems Two in Brooklyn, is one of the exceptions. ECM took it on after the fact, perhaps because it has the rapt, inner-directed atmosphere associated with the label. Unfortunately it has the vibe but lacks the intensity and the substance. If Manfred Eicher had been in the studio, perhaps he would have drawn more pointed, concentrated music from pianist-composer Anat Fort, bassist Ed Schuller, drummer Paul Motian and clarinetist Perry Robinson.

Fort is from Israel, and her work is said to reflect Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences. But the music here is so pallid and nondescript that those influences are sublimated. Fort is a minimalist. She postulates elemental figures, spare lines that she hopes are suggestive. Such a less-is-more approach requires a special muse, and Fort’s ideas are mostly melodically slight. The three variations on “just now,” intended as a recurrent leitmotif, are more static than evocative.

The album does get stronger toward the end. Fort’s playing on “not the perfect storm” has more lyric urgency than anything that precedes it. And no album with Paul Motian is a waste. His stark accentual patterns and spaced gestures are more resonant with implication than most players’ melodies.

Originally published in May 2007
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