For her third ECM album, Israeli pianist Anat Fort augments her long-established trio – with bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider – with a special guest: Italian reedman Gianluigi Trovesi. Fort and Trovesi have made a number of appearances together in recent years, to critical acclaim, and Birdwatching, with its lively, bright music, takes their rapport to the next level. There is an alertness and a joyful quality in the playing, both in the articulation of melodies and in the improvised passages. “I’d followed Giuanluigi Trovesi on many records over the years,” says Anat, “and always loved his musical spirit.” Fort and Trovesi first played together in duo at Italy’s Novara Festival, after which Gianluigi came to Israel and participated for the first time in concerts with Anat’s trio at the Opera house in Tel-Aviv. “The next step was to make a recording together, and that was the idea I proposed to Manfred Eicher. He was excited about it too, and it all took off from there….
“We recorded a lot of music in Lugano, exploring many different directions. When I met with Manfred in the studio to mix it, it very soon became clear: this was another story record which would be told in small steps, or episodes, or vignettes. As we started working, the story started to unfold. It became clear we needed more solo piano, so we recorded it spontaneously that day. I felt like this was a record which was telling us its own story, where it wanted to go, where the movements were…”
Of her album’s title, Anat Fort says, “I love birds, and have done some bird-watching. Many of my songs are inspired by movements of things in nature: animals, clouds, winds, water… I didn’t know what this record would be called but when I listened to the finished master, I knew had to do with the movement of birds, and with watching, listening,waiting.” The album, she notes is concerned with literal bird-watching in nature and about monitoring “that inner bird, the soul.”
Since the release of her last album And If , Anat Fort has returned to Israel, living now in Tel Aviv, after a lengthy sojourn in Brooklyn. “I’ve moved the centre of my activity to Israel but have never disconnected from the New York jazz scene. I still go there often, collaborate with the wonderful musicians and get great inspiration from it. But being based in Israel, it is easier for me to get to Europe now, where my music is heard the most. And being in the Middle East – as opposed to the West – has had its influence on me for sure.”
With drummer Roland Schneider recently returning to Berlin, Anat’s once NY-based trio is now spread between three countries: “It's of course different from having weekly rehearsals in the same city, and longer periods of time pass between our meetings. But whenever we go on tour, the excitement and spontaneous interaction are there, as can only happen with members of a family happy to meet again.”
Anat Fort began studying music at the age of five and grew up listening to 80s pop and soaking up the diverse sounds of the Middle East, all of which nourished the rich kaleidoscope of colours and influences that would become a stylistic signature. Though a natural improviser from a very young age, it was not until her late teens that she discovered jazz. This fascination led her to study improvisation on the jazz program at William Paterson University in New Jersey, then move to New York to pursue her studies in composition with Harold Seletsky and in improvisation, briefly, with Paul Bley. Paul Motian brought Anat Fort to ECM’s attention, and played on her first album for the label, A Long Story, recorded in 2004. The album received outstanding reviews worldwide; John Diliberto wrote that Fort is “quietly establishing herself as a composer of graceful beauty and an improviser of daring exploration”. And If, featuring the trio with bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider, was selected as one of the Ten Best Jazz CDs of the year by Slate magazine, which described it as “turbulent but spare, knife-edged but tender, brimming with melodic hooks that loop in sinuous shapes and a slightly klezmeric insouciance”.
Gianluigi Trovesi was born in the small Alpine village of Nembro, near Bergamo in northern Italy. He made his first ECM appearance in 1994 as a member of the Italian Instabile Orchestra on Skies of Europe, returning in 2001 with In cerca di cibo the first of several improvisational witty discs with accordionist Gianni Coscia. Trovesi’s other projects on ECM include Vaghissimo Ritratto, on which he appears with pianist Umberto Petrin and percussionist and electrincs player Fulvio Maras (percussion, electronics), and Fugace, a genre-hopping adventure by an all-Italian octet. His 2008 album Trovesi All’Opera – Profumo di Violetta is a typically quirky Trovesi take on Italian opera performed, as the Daily Telegraph, wrote, by “a turbo-charged version of a traditional Italian town band”.
Bassist Gary Wang grew up in Boston and San Francisco, moving to New York in the late 1990s. As well as being Anat’s bassist, he has played in the bands of T.S. Monk, Stanley Turrentine, Matt Wilson, Ben Monder and many others, and worked with Geri Allen, Mark Turner, Kenny Werner, Roy Hargrove, Dianne Reeves, Jane Monheit, Eric Alexander, Bobby Watson, Howard Johnson and more.
Heidelberg-born drummer Roland Schneider studied in New York with Billy Hart and Bill Stewart, amongst others. Now a much in-demand player on the international scene he has worked across the whole range of modern jazz, with musicians including Maynard Fergusson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Wheeler and Ernie Watts. He has worked with Anat Fort since 1998.