Over the past few years, pianist Chris Pattishall has entranced New York audiences with his performances of Mary Lou Williams’ cult classic Zodiac Suite. From time to time, he’s engaged his longtime guitarist colleague Rafiq Bhatia to create a sound that’s closer to ambient music or psychedelia – or Radiohead – than postbop jazz. Now they’re made an album out of it, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s like nothing yofoxu’ve ever heard anyone do with this, at one moment completely purist and true to its origins, at another drifting over into a completely different universe. He and the band don’t usually stay in one place for very long here: he really leaves you wanting more.
Pattishall evinces some richly bell-like tones from the upper registers before the band stomp their way in, trumpeter Riley Mulherkar joyously running the big hook over the piano’s proto-Monk chromatics, bassist Marty Jaffe and drummer Jamison Ross lurking back. There’s enough echo on the trumpet solo to drive a truck through, Bhatia’s processing adding a woozy dubwise edge
Pattishall has fun warping the time as Gemini gets underway, only to diverge into a spacy, surrealistically plucky Bhatia guitar interlude. The band’s leap into racewalking swing turns out to be a false start;
Cancer, like the opening track, has darkness and bluesy majesty as the group lift off slowly. A trumpet solo signals a pause, then Pattishall brings the eerily chiming surrealism and grimly organlike textures back. The shivers of Ruben Fox’s sax solo out are equally phantasmagorical.
Leo is here and gone in less than a couple of minutes, a strangely martial fanfare . Virgo swings genially with more than a hint of a Miles Davis classic and a suave sax solo. Pattishall’s saturnine solo lyricism in Libra is one of the album’s high points; it’s over too soon.
Creepy slinkiness and bright horns contrast in Scorpio, up to a dissociative ambient interlude before resuming with a coy bounce. Pattishall makes impressionistic, Debussyesque blues out of Saggitarius, solo, then bass, drums and subtle, strange electronics return for an exploratory, tantalizingly short, moody take of Capricorn.
Mulherkar raises the warmly anticipatory edge of Aquarius, although there’s subtle phantasmagoria here too: we are dealing with the occult, after all. With its Monklike chromatics, Pisces is the quiet stunner here, just enough of a dusky carnival to be genuinely sinister. The group romp their way through a swinging, hard-hitting, Brubeckian take of Aries. The electronics here may leave some listeners mystified, but Pattishall has really gone under the hood with this music, and the nuances, and surprises he unveils here are the best advertising he could possibly give his live show. Now we need to see him play somewhere soon around these parts!