Feb 24, 2021
In a recent podcast, we talked about jazz musicians who look forward by looking back. This podcast, featuring pianist Chris Pattishall shows another facet of that idea.
Pattishall’s debut CD, Zodiac, is his take on the legendary Mary Lou Williams’ “Zodiac Suite.” Pattishall became aware of Ms. Williams while living in Durham, North Carolina, where the Duke University Center for Black Studies is named after the eminent jazz pianist and composer. He has immersed himself in the piece for a number of years now, and with the release of his version of Zodiac, he takes something from the past and places it squarely in the present, if not the future.
Much of that comes not just from his playing and arranging, but from his collaboration with producer Rafiq Bhatia, and an ensemble of close allies – Jamison Ross (drums), Riley Mulherkar (trumpet), Ruben Fox (saxophone), and Marty Jaffe (bass). The sound of the performance is striking, as producer Bhatia and Pattishall work to create soundscapes with the music being made, a subtle manipulation that nonetheless sets the work apart from a mere tribute recording.
A student of pianists Marcus Roberts and Harold Mabern, Pattishall has had ample time to digest the canon of jazz piano greats, digging past the more conventional, exterior details towards deeper facets of artists that are eclectic and provocatively irregular. It’s not surprising that he touts Thelonious Monk as his greatest inspiration.
Podcast 800 is my conversation with Chris Pattishall, and we discuss the Zodiac project, how he finds inspiration from film, literature and music other than jazz, and what he plans next in a post-pandemic world. Musical selections from the album include “Cancer” and “Capricorn.”