A pair of long, descending clarinet lines fall into a single, reflective piano chord. For the rest of the piece, the clarinet tosses off ideas and the piano responds in turn. It's a dynamic construction of a sound sculpture of sorts. Also, a tremendously interesting demonstration of what musical minds can do when unfettered by needless restraint. Finally, "Chapter Two" is a perfect example of the spirit of Anat Fort's latest recording: A Long Story. Thoughts fly, musicians listen and react.
And react they should. In fact, with Ed Schuller on bass, Perry Robinson on clarinet and the great Paul Motian behind the kit, the level of play is assured. What might not be so clear, given Fort's background, is what sort of music will be concocted? Fort grew up in Israel, studied classical music, studied improvisation (with Paul Bley, no less!) and spent many years playing jazz gigs in New York City. While the middle eastern influence makes itself known in subtle ways, Fort's compositions lean more toward the folk storytelling of Keith Jarrett or maybe early Pat Metheny.
The word 'story' is the key to A Long Story. Musical stories are being told to the receptive listener. For over seven minutes, "Not The Perfect Storm" moves from point to point with Fort's ringing piano chords supported by Schuller's bass. As usual, Paul Motian proves to be the master of harmonic implications, giving shape to the music with an absolute minimum of strokes. "As Two/Something 'Bout Camels" was written as a reflection on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. With the clarinet and piano taking their analogous sides, after an intense and intertwined improvisation, the clarinet emerges as an ocarina and floats alongside the piano. It's a kind of musical diplomacy.
The emotional centerpiece of this record is clearly "Just Now." Presented in three variations — piano/bass/drums, solo piano, and the full band arrangement that closes the program — the piece illustrates how malleable Fort's compositions are. And with this particular group, a different story is told with each variation: a pensive reflection to start, moving toward a bluesy muse to complete the album.