by Jeff Becker
Pat Battstone is a Boston based pianist that has been establishing a catalog of extremely creative music over the past several years. His ‘Chamber Improvisational’ approach to music is a welcomed breath of fresh air. It is music meant to be played in the moment; to be in the moment and present. It was through this process that Battstone has documented his playing in various settings with Richard Poole (vibraphone) and Kit Demos (double bass, modular synthesizer). In these groups of: Poole-Battstone, Demos-Battstone, and Demos-Poole-Battstone, he has produced 6 CDs over the past 5 years. For this project, called Rylesonable, Battstone has added Antonella Chionna, a young Italian vocalist and poetess from Southern Italy. Battstone explains, “It started as a random contact – a friend of a friend – then a surprising response, followed by a dialog. Finally, a collaboration was born that eventually included their musical circles spread across 2 continents.” This collaboration has brought the addition of accompanying surrealist poetry recitations as well as playing de-constructed standards, which has added even more colors and flavors to the existing voices.
The album contains twelve tracks and was recorded live in the studio. Nine of the tunes were improvised in the studio with the addition of two standards and a Gabriele di Franco tune with lyrics by Chionna. The level of communication between these musicians is simply amazing. They listen to each other, build upon common themes and give space for the music to breath and musical sentences to form. The opening track, “Under a Persian Sky,” is a good example of the before mentioned qualities. The quartet slowly develops a melodic phrase to a climax, breath and then, start the next phrase. Chionna’s held notes build the first phrase with Demos and Battstone providing colorful harmonic movement. Poole provides light counterpoint to Chionna, as the quartet builds the phrase together, making a uniform musical statement.
“Sophisticated Lady” is very interesting. Chionna’s percussive vocalizing is prodigious, Demos’ warm bass interacts with Chionna as she builds to the well-known melody. Chionna’s playfulness with the melody breathes new life into the Ellington master piece. Demos and Chionna present the majority of the track as a duet, with Battstone and Poole entering for the cadential chord, again, allowing the music to breath and entering at the most dramatic and poignant moment, which takes more maturity than one might expect.
Battstone switches to fender Rhodes for “Rather Life,” a reassembly based on the original poem by Plutot La Vie. Battstone’s colors and accompaniment of Chionna is brilliant. The two act as one, as they traverse the moments with musical conversation and heartfelt emotions. It is obvious that these two have a deep understanding and connection through and with poetry.
The collaboration of Battstone and Chionna is a providential effort, one that brings together two well-known avant-garde figures that on their own, in their own countries, are well respected in their artforms. Together they create a lasting statement of musical adventure that will certainly stand the test of time as a preeminent go-to recording.