An increasing presence on the downtown NYC circuit, alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos has worked with a number of free jazz luminaries such as Joe Morris, Nate Wooley, Peter Evans and Paul Lytton. He and Tyshawn Sorey joined the promising bassist Brandon Lopez as the Undermine Trio for a number of recent NYC performances. What stands the twenty-something Pitsiokos apart as a saxophonist is his broad range of virtuoso-like skills whether playing in a lyrical or free mode. Both ends of the spectrum are on display with Protean Reality.
Equally diverse in portfolio is the young German bassist Noah Punkt. On the awa release with alto saxophonist Gustav Geißler or with the group called Random, one could grasp the scope of Punkt’s versatile interests and highly adventurous spirit. Punkt has also played with drummer Tim Daisy, and Swiss saxophonist Tobias Pfister. German drummer Philipp Scholz has been working, mostly in-country, with a “new jazz” trio called Plot. It’s worth noting that, like Pitsiokos, these two members of Protean Reality are still in the twenties, but all with impressive early credentials.
The three long pieces (averaging twenty minutes) on Protean Reality blur the line between free improvisation and hard driving bop. “Torturer’s Horse” opens with Pitsiokos’s honks and squeaks and his joined by a marching pattern from Scholz. Building in intensity, the piece finally descends into asylum-like madness of noise and instrumental angst. “Green Water” offers a similar vein but here, Punkt’s bass becomes distinctly audible, albeit, briefly; these compositions are sax/drum concentrated. “Calmly On” goes about twelve minutes in before the music demonstrates a synergy with the placid title. The mood is short-lived, as the album closes at a frenetic pace.
For an artist of his age, Punkt has a few impressive recordings that can be found online with a bit of hunting. His involvement in—and on—Protean Reality is peripheral though in more chaotic passages, it’s hard to tell where all the input is coming from. As a unit however, this trio is a furious force that can tone down to nuance and re-fire to frenzy at breakneck speed. This is not an album that can be categorized due to its experimental nature. Protean Reality radiate both noise and lyricism with equal dexterity (if not in equal doses) and each of these musicians are worth watching for down the road.