Essential New Music: CP Unit’s “One Foot On The Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown”

Any tool can be used for either good or ill, but in music, virtuosity is especially double-edged. The ability to do something, or many things, really well certainly opens up possibilities. Unfortunately, one road often taken at that juncture is the one that treats displays of skill as sufficient ends in themselves.

CP Unit, which is led by alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos, makes all the right turns on One Foot On The Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown. Everyone in the band (whose lineup changes from album to album) has the chops to negotiate the white-knuckle shifts in direction that are built into Pitsiokos’ four compositions, which encompass acrid blues and rubbery, baleful funk. But CP Unit is also attentive to balance and dynamics, and the musicians’ interactions during the pieces’ free-form interludes are short marvels of collective creation. Special credit must go to Jason Nazary, who doubles on electronics and drums, and admirably acquits the contradictory tasks of keeping the grooves on track as well as spinning the others’ playing through hall-of-mirrors distortions. 

—Bill Meyer