The Berlin Sessions is the fourth album of the international trio of Israeli, Tel Aviv-based pianist-composer Anat Fort, with her comrades for more than twenty years – American, New York-based double bass player Gary Wang and German, Berlin-based drummer Roland Schneider. The album was recorded at EBS and Hansa Studios in Berlin in April 2022, immediately after the trio was invited to perform a one-off gig at the BMW Welt Jazz Awards in Munich, and after two and a half years of separation due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Fort asked the recording engineer Nanni Johansson to capture whatever the trio decided to play – spontaneous pieces at first and later improvising on pieces from the trio’s vast repertoire and some off-the-cuff covers, a practice that the trio never employed before. Clearly, it was a wise decision since this trio had an inspired time at the studio. The double disc solidifies the immediate and profound, poetic dynamics this trio has established, the emotional impact of its diverse repertoire, as well as its sonic imagination.
The first disc is divided between four instant and playful trio improvisations, all celebrating the strong chemistry of the trio, and the more skeletal and contemplative, seven-part «The Jain Suite», penned by Fort and each part was inspired by an image of Indian religious art in New York’s Rubin Museum. The second disc is more eclectic, beginning with Fort’s oldest tunes for the trio, «Breeze», paying respects to the seminal influence of Keith Jarrett, then revisiting another gem of the trio, «Fire Drill Blues», and later connecting masterfully the cover Billy Joel’s sentimental «Just the Way You Are» with a sober reading of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s iconic standard «All the Things You Are». Fort dedicates a piece to her inspiring cat, «Wish Cloud», and another one for her late friend and drummer, «Open (for Take Toriyama)». The trio concludes this journey on a happier note. The trio dives into the addictive groove of Level 42’s «The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)», meditates on a popular Jewish prayer «Oseh Shalom» (making piece), composed by Israeli Nurit Hirsch and very relevant for today’s Israel, and closes the album with Fort’s solo piece, the dreamy «Back to the Future».
Jim Macnie, who follows Fort’s career and contributed liner notes to The Berlin Sessions summarized beautiful her art: «Fort always has an itinerary but doesn’t want to rob the journey of its surprises by telling you where she’s headed».
Israeli trumpeter Eli Hasson studied classical music in New York, then played with Israeli free jazz heroes Harold Rubin and Albert Beger and retired for hi-tech work. Anat Fort mentored his comeback to musical life, and Hasson composed the music for his debut album, featuring two young musicians – France-based guitarist Yeonathan Shachar and drummer Yovel Shay. The cover photo by American photographer Tabitha Soren refers to Iconic ECM covers, and Seven Seas is clearly influenced by the famous German label austere aesthetics. Hasson’s compositions opt for leisured and spacious textures, patiently exploring minimalist and melodic themes, with a reserved sense of drama and a touch of melancholia. The best pieces here are «Red», «Kara» when the trio develops a gentle groove, and the meditative reading of the American popular folk gospel «Wayfaring Stranger».
Anat Fort (p), Gary Wang (db), Roland Schneider (dr), Eli Hasson (tp), Yeonathan Shachar (g), Yovel Shay (dr)