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CP Unit: One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown (Ramp Local)

A review of Chris Pitsiokos group's third album

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CP Unit, One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown
The cover of One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown by CP Unit

Add alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos to the list of Brooklyn-based under-the-radar wunderkinds. Equipped with a wealth of talent, an impressive (and mushrooming) catalog, and a wild-eyed improvisational technique to die for, Pitsiokos is also a composer on the cusp of greatness. As leader of the ever-mutating CP Unit, he provided hefty doses of his potential on a must-hear string of recordings including Before the Heat Death (2017), Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years (2018), and the live set Riding Photon Time (2019).

Now, with the release of One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown, Pitsiokos’ time has arrived. The latest iteration of CP Unit is a well-oiled machine, featuring players—guitarist Sam Lisabeth, electric bassist Henry Fraser, and drummer Jason Nazary—who share a psychic-level vocabulary, attacking and strutting with both cutthroat precision and freewheeling abandon.

CP Unit’s first two recordings were unabashedly hyper, and One Foot follows a similar blueprint: perpetually morphing, crammed with asymmetrical detail. But on these four compositions, Pitsiokos trades in some of the dizzying intricacies of previous releases for more spacious vistas, and it works to perfection.

As his elastic group lays down slinky harmolodic grooves throughout, Pitsiokos lets loose with soul and skronk aplenty. There’s slow-burning bluesy swagger (“One Foot on the Ground,” “Sibylant”), breakneck punk-jazz fury (“Orelius”), and mathy downtown funk (“Tarpit”). Ornette Coleman and Prime Time are an obvious influence, along with James Chance and the Flying Luttenbachers (drummer Weasel Walter was an early member of CP Unit). But Pitsiokos brings a distinct voice and a monolithic tone that’s all his own, and deserving to be heard.

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