Powerful, Poignant, Improvisational Jazz: Short Stories (written on Cartoline dall’Eremo)

In listening to the improvisational works in Short Stories (written on Cartoline dall’Eremo), one is transported back to the early days of the Pandemic, an uneasy time of the unknown, waiting, watching, despair, and hope. While the appetite for “pandemic music” and live streamed home concerts has waned (we’re all doing our best to get on with life now, yes?), this self-released album by improvisational jazz pianist and composer Pat Battstone, created in collaboration with Italian visual artist Daniela Chionna, deserves exploration, and, perhaps, a place in jazz musicologist’s archives of this era.

A microcosm of all of our need for connection in those dark times, the two artists connected across the miles as a lifeline to, essentially, share their art as an emotional and artistic outlet.  The result–intended or not–is a multi-media project that documents the unfolding of this time in our collective history.
It began with Chionna sending postcards from her studio (The Hermitage) in Puglia, Italy, to Battstone, who was “exiled” to a cell in a monastery in Massachusetts; lonely, poetic circumstances. The postcards were wordless, impromptu pictorial works (signs, colors, drawings) on small format cardboard, to which Battstone responded with improvisational jazz piano pieces. The correspondence lasted the full length of the lockdown, so one assumes the resulting album, Short Stories, shares just the best of the compositions in its 11 tracks.
Battstone elaborates, “Despite our ‘exile’ we remained in constant contact. The collaboration that had formed in the previous years continued to grow and prosper. The duress of the time only made it stronger. This daily dialog lasted for the length of the Italian lockdown and beyond.”
The album is anything but depressing, rather, it is a touching and poignant insight to an artistic friendship reminiscent of earlier eras. Aptly described as “suspended, intimate, poetic, sometimes surreal atmospheres,” the pieces evolve throughout the album, from the suspense and sadness of “The Time in Waiting” to the hopefulness of the closing track “A Midsummer Night’s Midwestern Dream.” In between, “Shadow Paintings” captures the surreal feeling of our interrupted lives, while “Flight of the Dragonfly” reminds us of the Pandemic’s unexpected gift: the time to observe and appreciate the power of nature again, as one hears the dragonfly dip and dart across the river that surely must run outside of Chionna’s studio. 
Battstone is a jazz musician & composer who has been playing keyboards since he was 14, starting with various R and B, rock, and blues bands in the Midwest. He moved to Boston to study jazz at Berklee, and lived and studied there until a few years ago when he moved to Italy. He is a passionate advocate for jazz music. With this album, Battstone reminds us of the power of improvisational jazz as an effective and emotive genre that serves both the composer and listener. Explore Battstone’s previous albums, collaborations and reviews, peppered throughout Contemporary Fusion Reviews (CFR).

It will be a welcome day when all that remains of the Pandemic is the music it inspired; Short Stories (written on Cartoline dall’Eremo) certainly deserves a space in the musical archives of this time. That said, listeners are likely to find favorite pieces on the album that they’ll return to time and again.

We give it an EQ (Emotional Quotient) Score of 4.9!

The album is available for “Name Your Price” on Bandcamp: https://patbattstone.bandcamp.com/album/short-stories-written-on-cartoline-dalleremo

Album notes and credits:
Released January 15, 2022
Artwork copywrite by Daniela Chionna from the series “Le Cartoline dall’Eremo”, 2020
Recorded April 9, 2021 at Rear Window Studios, Brookline MA, USA
Edited and Mixed by Craig Welsch.
Mastered by Massimo Stano @ MAST Studios, Bari, IT
Graphics Design Christine Atturo
Special thanks to Karl Berger for his guidance during this period.
Beth Ann Hilton
Beth Ann Hilton
Beth has decades of journalistic experience, both as an entertainment writer (Film, TV, Books, Music) and as a music publicist; she holds a B. A. in Communications from Temple University in Philadelphia, and has lived in Los Angeles for 30 years, and has formal training in reviewing the arts.  She is now the owner and primary editor of Contemporary Fusion Reviews magazine

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