Israeli pianist/composer Anat Fort augments her longstanding trio with bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider by adding Italian reedman Gianluigi Trovesi (who plays alto clarinet throughout) for her third ECM album, following 2010's And If. The trio had long been based in New York City, but since Fort 's return to Israel and Schneier's return to Berlin the band is now spread between three countrieswhich only makes their reunions more joyful. Fort and Trovesi first played together as a duo at Italy's Novara Festival, followed by the clarinetist joining the trio for concerts in Tel Aviv.
After making the group recordings, Fort and producer Manfred Eicher decided that the album needed more solo piano, which resulted in the opener "First Rays" and the closer "Sun." As usual with ECM albums the track sequencing sounds so inevitable that it is hard to believe those tracks weren't part of the plan all along. "Earth Talks" shows the empathy of Fort and Trovesi with a duet, and Schneifer's tom rolls bring in the full rhythm section in dramatic fashion for "Not The Perfect Storm." "It's Your Song" (which is just as lyrical as the title implies) pares the group back to the core trio, with space for a lovely bass solo from Wang. "Jumpin' In" shows a rubato side, its striking theme counterbalanced by turbulent playing. The exploratory group improvisation "Inner Voices" briefly goes into more abstract territory.
Fort's music reflects her many influences: 80s pop, Middle Eastern music, and jazz. Despite her trio's formation in New York City, there is a definite European flavor, further enhanced by Trovesi's rich alto clarinet playing. While generally melodic and reflective, Birdwatching also goes into other areas. She says the album title is concerned with literal bird-watching in naturebut also more generally with "watching, listening, waiting."
Track Listing: First Rays; Earth Talks; Not The Perfect Storm; It's Your Song; Jumpin' In; Milarepa Part 1; Song Of The Phoenix I; Song Of The Phoenix II; Murmuration; Meditation For A New Year; Inner Voices; Sun.
Personnel: Anat Fort: piano; Gary Wang: double bass; Roland Schneider: drums; Gianluigi Trovesi: alto clarinet.
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