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Pianist Pat Battstone and vibraphonist Richard Poole's Mystic Nights follows a small but illustrious tradition duo recordings including Gary Burton and Chick Corea's Crystal Silence (ECM, 1972) and Visions (Steeplechase, 1979), from Sun Ra and Walt Dickerson.
Also a pianist, Poole shows significant musical sympathy with Battstone who, having studied with Burton, also has a deep understanding of his colleague's instrument. This camaraderie is heard best on "Reflections," with each instrument reflectingbut not mimickingthe other with crystalline flowing notes, like a brook flowing into a pond. On the contemplative "Scottish Heather," piano and vibes echo each other like chimes in the wind of the melody creating a nocturnal mood.
A Zen-like atmosphere permeates some of the tunes, like the cinematic "Life Stories" and almost oriental-sounding "Gin and Tonic," with its rapid piano scales precisely punctuated by Poole's resonant mallets.
Battstone exhibits some classical avant-garde leanings, strumming the innards of his piano on the atonal "Newsreel" and delivering a Debussy-esque solo on the melancholic "Magical Morning." Hints of the blues appear on the spirited and free-flowing dialogue that characterizes "When Creatures Reigned," with Battstone's Cecil Taylor-informed energy and percussive approach.
Elsewhere, bop-like flairs and Latin touches mark the otherwise free-flowing improvisations of "Cross Currents," where Poole's muted colors and Battstone's brighter palette complement each other perfectly as they fade into silence. This stimulating disc closes with the title track, Poole's mallets vibrating harmoniously with Battstone's harp-like picking of the piano strings, as it evolves into an angular yet mellifluous song that ends with ominous bangs and silent pauses.
This unique set of 13 improvised pieces creates an intensely meditative and mystical ambience filled with satisfyingly thought-provoking ideas. Mystic Nights can be enjoyed casually, but requires a careful and intent listening to be fully appreciated.
Track Listing: Scottish Heather; Summer Sunset; Gin and Tonic; Something Lurking;
Newsreel; Undertow; When Creatures Reigned; The Miller's Tale; Magical Morning; Life Stories; Reflections; Cross Current; Mystic Nights.
Personnel: Patrick Battstone: piano; Richard Poole: vibes.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.