Motian Detector

Pianist Anat Fort’s work is known for its mood, sense of touch, use of space and a feel for the exotic. Her latest recording And If assumes these qualities in less obvious ways, giving the music a natural and holistic feel. In a sense, she’s brought new subtleties to her subtlety.

That’s not to say that she can’t show some personality when its called for. “Clouds” is a sky-full of gathering electricity. “Nu” snaps with sparks. Both are emphatic and  powerful even as they turn on Fort’s characteristic style. In short, she’s capable of wide-ranging tone and emotion.

Still, it’s the more considered pieces that standout. Fort’s 2007 ECM release A Long Story included drummer Paul Motian whose touch and painterly percussion was the perfect compliment to the pianist’s thoughtful, occasionally colorful ways. Her trio on the new recording has bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider. But Motian is still a presence; the disc’s opening/closing number, its most sensitive, bears the drummer’s name.

Fort gets similar sensitivity from Wang and Schneider, the kind of backing that’s at once austere and appropriate. There are tunes that except for a bit of rhythmic juice might be thought lyrically classical. “Minnesota” is an apt tribute to a state known for its waters. The tune shimmers and splashes inside its folk-like theme. “Nu” is pure punctuation with a flow of its own. By the time she revisits “Paul Motian” you expect her to deepen its brief reflection…and she does. This is an exemplary recording full of individuality and crafted sensitivity. Not your usual piano trio.–Cabbage Rabbit

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