Anat Fort Trio/Gianluigi Trovest: Birdwatching

Birdwatching unfolds in that oh-so-familiar ECM way, as if its creators have all the time in the world to say what they have to say. Anat Fort, the Israeli pianist, volunteers to make the first statement, solo, for little more than two minutes, on “First Rays.” Later, to bring the proceedings to a close, she does the same, bracketing the music in-between with “Sun,” like its earlier companion piece a wistful solo meditation.

Had she made the entire recording by herself that would have been fine; these 12 compositions are, at their core, the type of exercises in contemplation that lend themselves so well to personal statement. (You can see why she called this Birdwatching as you partake of its calmness.) But Fort had bigger things in mind, or slightly bigger anyway, for the rest: Bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider, her regular trio, and guest alto clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi, are used sparingly at times, more inclusively at others, to flesh out Fort’s concepts, but never do they dominate. On the two-part “Song of the Phoenix,” centerpiece tracks, the rhythm players are barely perceptible at times, mere ornamentation to the two melody instruments. On the meandering, foreboding “Not the Perfect Storm” they are more prominent, but still their purpose is to supply coloration.

Only one piece, the penultimate track, “Inner Voices,” is credited to the full quartet, and it too is a duet at heart; Schneider’s toms and Wang’s bass inject balance but have no discernible effect on the rhythm itself. That it all holds together as well as it does is a nod to the musicians-masters of restraint and subtlety-and producer Manfred Eicher, who knows a thing or two about saying more with less.

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