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Thursday, February 13, 2020

GPS Trio - Blast Beat Blues (Rataplan, 2019) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Fourteen minutes long and packed from start to its all-too-soon finish with energy, drummer Devin Gray’s GPS Trio is a compact and powerful firecracker of an album. Just judging from the names of the GPS, you can pretty much form an opinion on what the group will sound like: G for Gray, a thoughtful composer and a fierce free player. Then there is P for Chris Pitsiokos, a unique voice on the saxophone, the ‘newcomer’ has already a readily identifiable sound, a wide pallet of influences and a penchant for piercing tones. Finally S for Luke Stewart, a busy electric and acoustic bassist and bonafide sonic explorer.

Crack open (or download, or stream, or whatever) the album and fire up “Internet explorer,” within 20 seconds the intensity is at max. Pitsiokos is smearing notes all over the spectrum and Grey is delivering a dense matrix of beats. Stewart is on acoustic bass, I believe, fingers running up and down the neck, playing and scratching at notes with his bow. Then, suddenly, the switch flips and the last 45 seconds of the 2 minute 40 second tune turns into a search. What happened? Was it all too fast? Too soon? That’s doubtful as the opening bars of the follow up “Data points nowhere” is just as fierce as the last track’s start. Halfway in we’re … umm … treated to the aforementioned piercings from the sax. The group rides it out until the slightly more melodically generous “Anna-lytics,” which for the most part is built around syncopation, extended techniques, and some intense saxophone runs. The most relaxed track is the last one, "Nevins all the way," to which Stewart lends a nervous edge with his bowed etchings.

This power pack of an album is over before it has begun, almost. However, what you hear is a hard hitting explosion of energy that begs for a - hopefully longer - sequel.