Oh boy, I'm glad we've got a discussion going. Misterie, when I describe Alan Taylor's direction as "streamlined" I'm speaking entirely in terms of the way those episodes were directed, i.e. their form rather than content. He absolutely helmed some of the show's more philosophical and existential episodes, but that quality I would credit to the writers. I say "streamlined" because those episodes, in many ways, emphasize the surreal passage of time, and Taylor does a great job bringing that quality forward. "The Ride" and "Kaisha" both feel like incredibly long episodes, though they're still within the hour range of a Sopranos installment, because they do such a good job economically covering long periods of time. "Kennedy and Heidi" gets a lot of its surreal quality from the way its storyline transforms over time, ending in a place nobody could have predicted. "The Blue Comet" gets its impact from its abruptness, and the sense of an unstoppable, universal force moving forward. Taylor taps into the vibe of these episodes through his excellent use of temporal pacing, which is present in his editing, his camera movement, his lighting, everything. Look at the scene preceding the crash in "Kennedy and Heidi" - it's a powerful, anxiety-inducing scene, and a huge amount of that effect is derived from the background visual of the trees by the road whipping by in a blur of color, lit by the car's headlights, behind the darkened figures of Tony and Chris. Or in "The Blue Comet", how every scene feels so short, making the episode seem fleeting, like the entire show is slipping through our fingers as it nears its ending.
On a related note, directing and writing are cousins, but ultimately very different craft. And while Chase clearly grew more than competent as a director by the end of the series (his directing work on the Pilot was iffy, and MiA was light years better), John Patterson was a consummate expert, and ultimately the man who, as a director, could craft an aesthetic that most effectively took the written themes of the show and processed them into a great cinematic experience.
Though I also agree with you about "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano", for the most part, as well as the first season in general. The whacking scenes in that episode were all a bit awkward. The frame-by-frame slow motion in the Altieri hit, and the strange docudrama-style jerky zooms when Tony shot Chucky Signore, followed by the use of "It's Bad You Know", just ruined my immersion. I didn't really have a problem with the Palmice hit, but some of the other whackings throughout that season also seem to have aged poorly. Brendan Filone, for example. The sequence of extreme "Psycho"-style closeups just feel overwrought, when the original Moe Greene special was striking in its unflinchingness. Of all the seasons, 1 has the most of these badly-aging moments. While some episodes, such as "Isabella", manage to avoid these problems, "Jeannie Cusamano" is honestly littered with awkward kinds of moments like that, which is strange because Patterson took the show to a whole new level of quality with his next finale, "Funhouse". Plus he directed some of the show's most effectively-shot whackings later on - Jackie Jr. and Tony Blundetto come to mind, in particular.
As far as Tim Van Patten and Allen Coulter, I think they each did interviews about their directing style, in which Coulter said he tried to put the viewer in the character's headspace, and Patten said his intent was generally to make the scene as visually "in-your-face" as possible. These each kind of sum up the feeling I get from their respective episodes.
Taps, lights out, 2200 hours. What's missing? Give up? Television.