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New York alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos combines precision and fury



Young New York-based saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos continues a striking creative ascent this year, releasing two very different recordings that build on the pinpoint precision and unhinged fury that characterized his earlier work. On Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed), with the quartet CP Unit, Pitsiokos shows the clear influence of quartet drummer Weasel Walter in his playing, applying go-for-broke intensity to various free-jazz modes. In 29 packed minutes, the group—which also includes guitarist Brandon Seabrook and electric bassist Tim Dahl—puts its own no-fat spin on the Contortions, Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, chaotic noise freak-outs, and high-velocity iterations of Walter’s trademark brutal prog. They move easily between tangled-up spasms and furious explosions of numbed-out funk, with Pitsiokos unleashing an unrelenting but meticulously harnessed attack that recalls the duck-call fury of saxophonist John Zorn early in his career. Equally impressive is his self-released solo album Valentine’s Day, which displays a dazzling array of tactics, whether the overdubbed four-saxophone assault of “Four Alto” (a dedication to Anthony Braxton, and a pun on the elder reedist’s groundbreaking solo album For Alto), the introspective circular breathing of “Flutter,” or the Konitz-meets-Coleman balladry of “Waiting.” From piece to piece he shows an expanding range that accommodates both tender phrasing and a lacerating tone. After making his Chicago debut last year, Pitsiokos returns for a solo set; he’ll also improvise in a trio with keyboardist Jim Baker and percussionist Michael Zerang.   v

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