The Berlin Sessions
First Dance - 4:53
Into It - 4:36
Out of It - 3:41
Are We Still Dancing - 5:06
Fantastic Creatures - 3:26
Two and a Half Continents - 1:38
Enlightment In Four Dimensions - 3:33
Flying Student - 4:33
Mahavira's Pregnancy and Death - 2:14
More than One Way to See Things - 2:13
The World As a Human Being - 6:17
Breeze - 5:33
Fire Drill Blues - 6:06
Just the Way You Are - 5:15
All the Things You Are - 6:36
Wish Cloud - 4:03
Open (for Take Toriyama) - 3:32
The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) - 3:18
Oseh Shalom - 5:44
Back to the Future - 2:32
Anat Fort - piano
Gary Wang - double bass
Roland Schneider - drums
The world’s pause caused by the Covid-19 pandemic created rifts in regular patterns and collaborations. Pianist Anat Fort found herself effectively separated from her regular trio of bassist Gary Wang and Roland Schneider for the first time in the trio’s 20 years of existence. When an opportunity arose to bring the trio together to perform in Germany, Fort seized on the chance to regroup and record an album that goes against the group’s typical formula on The Berlin Sessions.
Fort, Wang, and Schneider initially came together as a trio in 1999. Over the following two decades, the trio recorded celebrated albums for ECM and Sunnyside Records. After their most recent effort, Colour (Sunnyside, 2018), the group had found themselves in another period of activity and growth. This was quickly smothered by the pandemic, forcing the trio mates to retire to their homes in Tel-Aviv, New York, and Berlin.
In the Spring of 2022 Fort and the trio were invited to perform at the BMW Welt Jazz Awards in Munich, Germany. The performance offered an amazing opportunity to get the band together. Fort immediately booked studio time in Berlin just after the Awards.
The trio boarded a train to Berlin with no plans on what they were going to record. Fort asked engineer Nanni Johansson to leave the mics on to capture whatever the trio decided to put down in the EBS and Hansa Studios. They began to play for hours, playing freely at first and then suggesting pieces from their vast repertoire and some off-the-cuff covers, a practice that the group never employed before.
The beginning of the two-disc set finds the trio reacquainting themselves through group improvisation. There was an instant reconnection when they began to play, their chemistry as strong as it ever had been. The remainder of the first disc includes new renditions of pieces Fort had written for a handful of performances at New York’s Rubin Museum, under the collective name, “The Jain Suite.” Each piece was inspired by a work of eastern art on display at the museum. They are mainly brief sketches that were only played at that gig. The trio was excited to breathe new life into them.
The second disc begins with one of Fort’s oldest tunes for the trio, “Breeze.” The piece is a difficult, offbeat waltz with a stately air. Another departure was in recording a true blues tune. Fort decided to revisit her tune, “Fire Drill Blues,” a fun, buoyant piece for the trio to stretch out on. While touring after Colour, the trio toyed with the idea of recording 1980s tunes. Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” remained after a long gestation and is performed in sedate mastery. Kern and Hammerstein’s “All the Things You Are” follows, a complete surprise to the group as Fort sat playing at the piano and the beloved standard began to emerge.
Fort’s “Wish Cloud” is a piece inspired by her cat, a frequent source of inspiration for her composing. The thoughtful, spare piece was written prior to the trio’s tour with Gianluigi Trovesi seven years ago. The pianist’s “Open (for Take Toriyama)” was originally debuted as a longer composition with clarinetist Perry Robinson at the Rubin Museum after the death of her friend and drummer Toriyama.
The jubilant Level 42 tune “The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)” was a Fun song that the members of the trio had mutual affection for. Here they enjoy a spirited, dancing take on the piece. The trio then does a very different take of Nurit Hirsch’s popular Jewish prayer, “Oseh Shalom,” going for a meditative take rather than the song’s more boisterous typical feeling. The program concludes with Fort’s solo piece, “Back to the Future,” which serves as her album signoff calling card and a recapitulation of elements of “Mahavira’s Pregnancy and Death” from “The Jain Suite” on the first disc.
Anat Fort and her trio celebrate reuniting after years of separation on their new recording, The Berlin Sessions. In doing so, the trio touches on some elements in the music that they hadn’t normally touched to stunningly, unique effect.