Chris Pitsiokos | Elastic | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Chris Pitsiokos

Chris Pitsiokos

Catherine Slowik

Chris Pitsiokos 

When: Thu., March 31, 9 p.m. 2016
Price: $10
A year ago I had never heard of 25-year-old New York saxophonist and composer Chris Pitsiokos, and now it seems like I see his name everywhere. He’s turned up on four albums I’ve acquired since last summer, and his fiery presence dominates each—not because he showboats, but because his intense focus and energy are impossible to ignore. His music is rooted in free improvisation, and he’s one of a growing number of musicians influenced by the unchecked aggression of onetime Chicagoan Weasel Walter (with whom he’s regularly played), melding the fury of death metal and hardcore with extended techniques. Pitsiokos pushes his music to extremes: on last year’s relentless, well-titled Paroxysm (Carrier) his upper-register screams and serrated tone wed brutally with the lacerating electronics of Philip White, dissolving boundaries between noise and free jazz with a flailing blast. The pair are less strident but no less ferocious on the superb new Collective Effervescence (Clean Feed), an improvised quintet session organized by rising Slovenian drummer Dre Hocevar. His trio with bassist Max Johnson and drummer Kevin Shea nominally pushes closer into jazz territory on last year’s Gordian Twine (New Atlantis), with bebop-fast phrasing veering into gnarled, knotted passages, though the ballad “Lachesis” proves the group can be tender too. His new trio’s eponymous debut, Protean Reality (Clean Feed), also deploys jazz phrasing, but the muscular electric-bass abstractions of Noah Punkt and the post-Weasel Walter spasms of drummer Philipp Scholz carve out yet another space for the saxophonist to play within. In his Chicago debut Pitsiokos leads a quartet with drummer Jason Nazary, guitarist Andrew Smiley, and electric bassist Henry Fraser that plays compositions whose taut, polymetric grooves suggest the influence of Steve Coleman. He’ll kick off the evening with a solo set.
— Peter Margasak

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