Lucid Culture


Noa Fort Releases a Calm, Optimistic, Gorgeously Purposeful Piano Jazz Album

Over the past decade or so, pianist/singer Noa Fort has built a distinctive, individualistic body of jazz that embraces both avant garde surprise and classical melodicism. Her latest album Everyday Actions – streaming at Bandcamp – is the high point in her career so far. The world may have been plagued by unprecedented horrors since March of last year, but Fort’s gentle, irrepressible optimism pervades this record, even in moments of darkness.

The opening number, Endless Tea Party is a nocturne, just Fort’s calm, airy vocalese and a solo piano theme that she builds to a rather solemn neoromantic minimalism, a recurrent dynamic throughout the rest of the record. The band – trumpeter Josh Deutsch, bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Ronen Itzik – join Fort in The Stories We Tell, a coyly circling, shuffling number with one of her funniest lyrics and some wry piano/trumpet jousting, Deutsch playing good cop to Fort’s devious sprite.

She returns to the serene/somber dichotomy in Tunnels, an expansive solo number grounded by murky piano modalities: Sara Serpa‘s work comes to mind. The optimistic bounce in Fort’s piano matches the cheer in her vocalese in another solo number, the brief Home Search.

Fort and the band slowly waft through the album’s title track, a tone poem of sorts, Itzik patrolling the perimeter with his mallets. Rovno, a steady, stately, rising and falling solo piano rainy-day tableau, has echoes of both Erik Satie and Keith Jarrett as well as a Broadway tune that John Coltrane made famous.

Song For a New Year, a jazz waltz, is literally a song without words, Fort and Deutsch handing off to each other through its klezmer-tinged phrasing. Deutsch’s spare resonance lingers over Fort’s brooding cascades and the rhythm section’s, muted rumbling ambience in a second tone poem, Deeping. Fort winds up the record solo with the unhurried, optimistically lilting Natures

Fun fact: Fort comes from a talented family which includes another individualistic jazz pianist, her sister Anat Fort.


July 6, 2021 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Uneasy Treat From Noa Fort and Vinnie Sperrazza

The new short album Small Cities by multi-keyboardist Noa Fort and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza – streaming at Bandcamp – is a real change of pace for both of them because it’s so minimalist. The centerpiece, Only Happy When I’m Haunted, is the real showstopper here. Bookended by a wry drum solo, and a final, playful vocal-and drum-tune, it features Fort on what sounds like an old Yamaha organ instead of her usual piano. And it’s creepy, with an almost-unhinged tension similar to Serena Jost’s improvisational work in a completely diffferent context.

All proceeds of purchases go to Planned Parenthood.

December 27, 2020 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rapturous Musical Cross-Pollination at Women Between Arts at the New School

Yesterday was the fourth installment of Luisa Muhr’s new interdisciplinary series Women Between Arts at the New School. One would think that there would be several series in this city devoted to women whose work crosses the line between different artistic disciplines, but this appears to be the only one at present. What’s new with Muhr’s series is that it isn’t just a place for women artists who defy categorization: it’s also a space where adventurous established artists can branch out beyond their usual practice.

Case in point: Jean Rohe. She’s known as a songwriter and a strong, distinctive acoustic guitarist (to call her a folksinger would be reductionistic). Throughout her tantalizingly brief performance yesterday’s show, she did a lot of storytelling.

This narrative was harrowing. Rohe was named after her paternal grandmother, who killed herself on December 9, 1961. Tragically, just like her father, Rohe didn’t find out about the suicide until years later. That revelation springboarded an “odyssey,” as she termed it, to find out the truth and what pushed the woman over the edge.

Like many of the projects that find their way to Women Between Arts, it’s a work in progress, and a hauntingly captivating one. Rohe’s fingerpicking channeled distant delta blues grimness with her opening number, then she referenced the Penelope myth with a more expansive, anthemic tune. Her final song, she told the crowd, was set in Hades: “In New Jersey, as we all know,” she mused, drawing a handful of chuckles. The narrative saw her climbing into her grandmother’s old black Buick at a stoplight, to find her crying and incommunicado, a ghost before her time.

Noa Fort is known as a composer of translucent piano jazz informed by classical music as well as her own Israeli heritage. After guiding the crowd through a brief meditation, she had them write down their innermost feelings on slips of paper so she could channel and maybe exorcise those issues. As it turned out, this was a very  uneasy crowd. Fort plucked around inside the piano gingerly, George Crumb style before launching into a series of eerie belltones, close harmonies and finally a woundedly descending anthem. She closed with a somewhat elegaic but ultimately optimistic ballad where a calmly participatory crowd carried the melody upwards. 

Trina Basu, one of the great violinists in Indian classical music, leads the pioneering carnatic string band Karavika. This time out, she played a rapturous homage to 16th century mystic Meera Bai, joined by Orakel tabla player Roshni Samlal and singer Priya Darshini. Basu explained that she’d discovered the controversial, pioneering proto-feminist poet via the work of 1960s singer Lakshmi Shankar.

Basu opened the trio’s first epic number with elegant spirals that spun off into sepulchral harmonics, then built steam, rising up and down in a series of graceful pizzicato exchanges with the tabla. Darshini sang the second long piece, Basu and Samlal matching its poignancy, an ancient raga theme sliced and diced through the prism of progressive jazz. 

 The next installment of Women Between Arts is Jan 21 at 3 PM at the New School’s Glass Box Theatre (i.e. the new Stone) at 55 W 13th St., with Meredith Monk collaborator Ellen Fisher, lustrously haunting singer/composer Sara Serpa with cellist Erik Friedlander and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and Appalachian music maven Anna Roberts-Gevalt.

January 8, 2018 Posted by | concert, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment