Jazz pianist Anat Fort.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Anat Fort is no stranger to the big stage. The 40-something jazz pianist, who returned to these shores a couple of years ago after a long sojourn in New York, has, among her many other achievements, recorded two albums for the prestigious German record label ECM. She has been inspired by many of the titans in jazz history, but she is almost lost for words to describe the thrill awaiting her next Friday in the Opera Jazz series performing material by, and performing with, veteran Israeli rocker Shalom Hanoch.
“I never dreamt I’d perform with Shalom, but his music has been with me forever,” she says.
Mind you, Fort has already rubbed shoulders with some of the heavies of her chosen art form. “I thought about the fact that I recorded with [iconic jazz drummer] Paul Motian, and that was a really big deal, but I grew up on Shalom’s music. That’s something else entirely. His music is part of my blueprint.”
Fort will be joined on her jazzy excursion through Hanoch’s oeuvre by longtime collaborators and members of her trio bass player Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider, with some support from veteran Italian reedman Gianluigi Trovesi, who has mixed it with some of the jazz fraternity’s leading envelope pushers for more than four decades. Hanoch will be the guest – and highly marketable – performer and will sing and play guitar on a few of his own numbers.
In the late 1960s, Hanoch was a member of a bunch of pop and rock musicians, which included the likes of Arik Einstein, and later his cohorts in the Tamuz rock band Ariel Zilber, Yehuda Eder and Meir Yisrael. Hanoch stamped his status as a rock icon with the release of Hatuna Levana (White Wedding) in 1981, and later Mechakim Le’mashiach (Waiting for Mashiach) in 1985.
While it would be hard to say that Hanoch is a jazz-oriented artist or even that he makes a habit of integrating improvisation in his output, there is a strong bluesy undercurrent to much of his music and, as jazz developed from the blues, perhaps that provides some sort of musical meeting ground for Fort and the sexagenarian rocker.
“If you relate to that [bluesy] aspect, you could say there was a chance to produce viable jazz renditions of Hanoch’s songs,” says Fort, “but what attracts me to his music is way beyond that – it is the words and the way he works. It is about the way he does what he does. He is a total professional and he is completely immersed in his music, and that is very rare.”
Fort could have been forgiven for being a little more than starry-eyed when her path crossed that of Hanoch’s at the rehearsal sessions, but the pianist says that simply wasn’t an option.
“Shalom is one of those wonderful down-to-earth people,” she declares.
Of course, having a 20-year globetrotting career of her own and several well-received albums under her belt can help to keep things consummately professional. “Yes, you get on with the rehearsal, and after it’s over you suddenly take in what you’ve just experienced. But Shalom would never let things go in that direction. He’s just not that sort of person,” she says.
Of course, Fort is intent on doing the business and providing the Opera House audience with the best renditions of Hanoch’s songs she can muster. She says she was given carte blanche in selecting the repertoire for the concert, although she had her work cut out for her before she managed to whittle the list down to the final playlist.
“I don’t have a favorite Shalom Hanoch song. There are just too many of them that I really love. I told him that,” she says.
Then again, the breakdown of the concert program did provide Fort with some pointers. “The songs Shalom will sing on are one thing, and the jazz instrumental readings are something else entirely,” she explains. “Not everything can be arranged as a jazz number. For instance, you can’t do a jazzy version of [Hanoch rock hit] ‘Mashiach.’ That simply doesn’t work without the words, and that also applies to quite a few other songs of his. So I took the things I could work with, which for me meant more the oldies. I mean, Shalom’s ‘Tiyul Le’Yaffo [Trip to Jaffa]. I love that song, but it is all about the words. You can’t do that in a jazz rendition without the words.”
So what will we hear next Friday? Fort is a bit hesitant about revealing her full hand but gives a few teasers. “With Shalom, we will do ‘Adam Betoch Atzmo.’ Without him, we’ll do ‘Shir Lelo Shem,’ ‘Tzarot Tovot’ and ‘Lo Yachol Lishon Achshav.’ I have worked out an interesting arrangement for that. I am looking forward to playing it with the trio,” she says.
Fort is probably as excited about her date with Hanoch as she has been about any concert in her career. “Shalom and I first met up about this about a year and a half ago, and it has been in my thoughts constantly ever since,” says the pianist. “This is a very big deal for me. I am very excited about performing Shalom’s material and I am going to be completely professional about it being on stage with him, but I am determined to make this a success. This is a dream come true. This is going to be good.”
For more information about the concert: (03) 692-7777 and www.israel-opera.co.il.