Mention the name Pat Battstone to me and I’ll brace for something wild and unexpected, a free-spirited exploration in pure sound and what it means to fixate on a single note and think about it. This isn’t free jazz but experimental jazz, and there is a difference. Free jazz is about controlled and uncontrolled chaos, of an explosion of ideas that, deep down, adhere to structures and codes. Experimental jazz, and the music of Pat Battstone, is too controlled to be free. It is cautious, curious and interested in brushing the dirt off ideas like an archaeologist in the field. I’ve reviewed Pat Battstone albums before–last year I reviewed his Elements and wrote, “We’re witnessing six skilled musicians letting go of their training, their ideas and beliefs about structure, and spending a single day with each other to act on their intuitions.”
Pat Battstone’s The Last Taxi: New Destinations travels through the same undiscovered landscapes, assembling strange sounds within precise and extended structures and letting music expand and contract through sheer emotion. It, and The Last Taxi recordings before it, are based on a simple idea–two taxi drivers meet for a smoke and conversation. So far we’ve been treated to Traveling Light and Making Connections, with those themes also continuing in Elements. New Destinations is about the stories these cab drivers tell each other about where they’ve been, what they’ve seen and where they’d like to go next.
As a whole, these tracks have a fleeting feeling–there are 13 tracks here, and each one covers a specific “story” in a unique yet seemingly brief way. This means plenty of interesting and exotic sounds floating around Pat Battstone’s piano–you might hear Chiara Liuzzi’s voice, or her percussion and electronics, or you might hear Giorgia Santoro play flutes and piccolos and more exotic choices such as the bansuri or the xiao. Adolfo La Volpe‘s electric guitar may appear and ground the more fanciful explorations. Finally, Battstone uses a piano trio with drummer Giacomo Mongelli and bassist Chris Rathbun to use jazz as a basic springboard into whatever happens next.
Pat Battstone definitely lives in the avant-garde section of town, and he lands on some troubling front stoops. But for every dark and sinister alley, there’s moments of staggering bliss, of winding up in a spot where the music coming from the upstairs landing is familiar and inviting. (I’m particulalry happy when La Volpe starts channeling David Gilmour.) In other words, you might find some of the driver’s stories perplexing or even inscrutable. Nevertheless there are stories that will remind you of your own, which means New Destinations has something for everyone–albeit in a very sly way.