Child of Illusion



Chris Pitsiokos – alto sax

Torbjörn Zetterberg – double bass

Susana Santos Silva and Torbjörn Zetterberg have been working together since 2012, when they recorded their first duo album “Almost Tomorrow”.
After that many other collaborations have followed and in December 2017 they met NY based saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos in Stockholm, where they recorded an album that will be released later this year on Clean Feed records.

Child of Illusion’s music is chamber-like, informed by their musical background that spreads over a myriad of different aesthetics, full of colourful nuances and beautiful interplay.


On December 22, 2017, an American, a Portuguese and a Swede enter a studio. They speak with their instruments. A few hours later they step outside with the recording of 4 improvisations.
The bass lays a strong foundation on which the sax and trumpet can tinkle to your heart’s content. Sometimes the American and the Portuguese remain silent and listen to the Swede to then talk carefully again.
Child of Illusion is the result of 3 top musicians who listen to each other, even though they sometimes disagree. Each time they find a common ground that ensures that their conversations rarely become chaotic.
This fascinating instrumental conversation is a pearl of free improvisation!
(google translation)

Sporting a cover illustration of a dark and menacing four-armed lemur, the trio of musicians on the album Child Of Illusion, Chris Pitsiokos (alto sax), Susana Santos Silva (trumpet), and Torbjorn Zetterberg (double bass), signal that this album will pack an unusual musical wallop. And indeed it does, with top level improvisations that explore dynamics and timbres that, to borrow a phrase, shock and awe.
All three offer unique perspectives. Bassist Zetterberg bows like a mosquito, bangs on the body of the bass, and rips and tears and frog bounces down the neck. There’s a bit of William Parker in his technique, comprised of looping or rapid-fire bowing and twangy plucking.
On his end, Pitsiokos emphasizes a range of techniques that sound like a combo of Jimmy Lyons, Evan Parker and Anthony Braxton. These include legato phrasing, tongue smacks, the rapid depression of sax keys without notes, the ripping up and down the body of the horn like an out-of-control escalator, rapid tonguing, rotating between the highest notes and lowest notes in the same phrase—leaving one to ponder just how he does it.
The third member of the trio is no less eyebrow raising. Silva trills both quietly and forcefully, follows outbursts with silence, and spins up, down and around. Like Raphe Malik’s explorations with the Cecil Taylor Unit, one should expect the unexpected.
On Child Of Illusion, the group collaborates to produce eerie fog horn sounds, howling, electronic hums, disturbing wailing, shrieks that die off, and intense fluid Morse Code urgency. Yet none of it seems random. Instead there is an architecture under-girding the improvisations that’s only discernible in its outline, like entering an immense dark hall with bits and pieces exposed as slightly lighter shades of black and dark gray. But, in navigating this edifice, the trio executes back and forth with such abrupt or subtle intensity that the improvisations maintain their spontaneity.
A masterpiece? It’s in the bounds of possibility. Certainly there is an electric, sizzling dynamic at play here—as if one, reduced to two dimensions, was tasked with navigating the Mondrian painting “Victory Boogie Woogie” at rapid speed. Child Of Illusion is an ascension up a spiral staircase, and with each step the trio offers a near-boundless variety of musical sound and effect.

Orkester Journalen Jan 2019
När basisten Torbjörn Zetterberg spelade med sin partner, trumpetaren Susana Santos Silva, och organisten Hampus Lindwall i Uppenbarelsekyrkan i Hägersten tidigare i år (se OJ #1/2018) så var det mera av en konstmusikalisk än en jazzig konsert. Detsamma gäller plattan Child of Illusion på vilken Lindwall fått ge plats åt saxofonisten Chris Pitsiokos.
De fyra kvartslånga styckena, som nästan känns som ett, bär underfundiga titlar som kan tolkas på flera sätt. Även så musiken, som liksom trevar sig fram, söker riktning under tidens gång. Öppningspåret Now Theninleds med en smygande ton för att övergå i en duell mellan trumpet och altsaxofon medan basen lunkar på i bluestakt för att avslutas med den inledande tonen.
Andra spåret Yeah Well har samma trevande anslag och sökande anfang, som är så spännande att följa: vart är det här på väg; vart ska det sluta? Närmast sömlöst övergår det i tredje stycket, I Find Nothing. Utflykten fortsätter – ut i intigheten, eller in i illusionen?
Avslutningsstycket What Now ger oss inga svar, inte ens ett spår av i vilken riktning trion begett sig. Vad nu? är en fråga lika mycket som ett konstaterande. Spåret och hela skivan avslutas i diminuendo, i ett borttynande, med samma inledande, smygande ton.
Musiken är till en början svår att ta till sig. Den andas lika delar Edgar Varèse och dark drone, serialism och improvisation, Iannis Xenakis och frijazz. Det krävs ett flertal genomlyssningar (själv är jag uppe i tio i skrivande stund) för att komma in i styckena. Och, det ska sägas, den gör sig förmodligen bra mycket bättre live. På den konserten återfinns åtminstone undertecknad i publiken.

Spontaneous Music Tribune Dec/18
Time for a gentle slowdown of our narrative. A studio meeting at the improvised summit: on the left flank American Chris Pitsiokos on alto saxophone, in the middle Swedish Torbjörn Zetterberg on double bass and on the right – Portuguese Susana Santos Silva on trumpet. Four fairly free improvisations, recorded last December in The House Of The Lord (where is it?) – an incomplete hour of music.
Child of Illusion is a leisurely journey around the outskirts of sonorism, often with the aesthetics of contemporary chamber music. The narrative generally has two main streams – a centrally embedded double bass, which, using a variety of forces and means, closely guards the framework of free improvisation and wind instruments located on opposite flanks, which constantly enter into dialogue, imitate or propel each other. The temperature of improvisation itself and the emotions evoking the musicians’ heads are constantly waving. Moments of temperamental explosions separate the areas of suppression of narrative for several minutes and keeping the hand drawn. According to the demanding reviewer, a bit more could be expected from the exposures of such staff. Especially the youngest person in this group of saxophonists should be much more oftencook the course of improvisation. At times we have the impression that the musicians lack courage, do not want to take a chance, prefer to dig in on the flanks and wait for what the partner will play.
Of course, you can easily point out the moments when the trio builds a great flow , when the musicians’ creativity does not encounter stylistic and characterological barriers. For example, the finale of the first song, when a drone from a double bass flows downstairs, and above it is an exceptionally sharp dialogue of a dry trumpet and juicy alto, full of pugnacity, artistic rudeness , and even fiery faces. The start of the second story is built with great care when the contrabass monologue is charmingly commented on by micro expositions of the saxophone and trumpet, which strokes the silence like chilled kittens. In the third part, around 9 minutes, the trio turns on the second gear, and the emotions are brilliantly rising. After four more minutes,the bowls sound warmly against the thunder of the double bass. The last one on this album is very impressive. Musicians who seem to have nothing to lose are eagerly exploding only with successful sounds.

A improvisação total, ou seja, a música feita sem qualquer acordo prévio entre os músicos que não o de confiarem uns nos outros, é frequentemente tida como uma música difícil de seguir, espinhosa, acre. O facto de os músicos abdicarem de convenções em relação à melodia e ao ritmo e de comporem os elementos musicais no momento, ao mesmo tempo que os interpretam, gera por vezes uma música pica-miolos, imprópria para o grosso da sociedade. Isto foi sempre assim: o bebop foi agressivo para os fãs do swing e o modal de Coltrane impenetrável para o bopper. Contudo, a música totalmente improvisada não é, como o “jazz populi” crê, desprovida de estrutura, ritmo, melodia e, até, “groove”…
O novo disco de Chris Pitsiokos, Susana Santos Silva e Torbjörn Zetterberg é um excelente exemplo de como é possível fazer alguma coisa do nada. Essa alguma coisa é uma música simpática, quente, swingante e cheia de combinações entre os músicos, com estes a desenvolverem as ideias uns dos outros. O contrabaixo de Torbjörn está ao mesmo nível dos sopros e isso dá à música uma apresentação particular em que o instrumento grave não sustenta e ritma: é uma voz grave num trio com dois metais agudos, que tocam magnificamente, com um enorme sentido e com beleza, sendo capazes de permanentemente se ouvirem e de tirarem o melhor do conjunto. Sinergia por definição.
Santos Silva é hoje um dos mais internacionais músicos portugueses, a viver em Estocolmo, com um merecido reconhecimento no panorama do jazz europeu e norte-americano. Tem um modo de tocar quente, humano, melodioso e é capaz de se adaptar com uma rapidez incrível aos mais diferentes universos sonoros e de intuir e responder em micro-segundos àquilo que está a ser proposto pelos outros membros. O nova-iorquino Chris Pitsiokos é um dos melhores altistas da actualidade, um saxofonista excelente que tem sido capaz de ocupar um lugar importante em vários mundos musicais, de Peter Evans a Lydia Lunch. O sueco Zetterberg é também uma referência e destaca-se como líder dos Hot Five, que incluem os sopros de Jonas Kullhamar e Per “Texas” Johansson.
A música do trio anda devagar. Desenvolve-se com calma e com um grande sentido melódico. Por vezes tosse e é feita de coisas pequenas, de interjeições. Mais frequentemente, agarra em ideias melódicas ou em acontecimentos (agudos, ritmos, respirações) e as músicas mais longas surgem de um entendimento sobre aquele elemento. Com uma tranquilidade morna, “Child of Illusion” evolui com uma composição sofisticada e de ouvidos atentos e cultos na música do século XXI. Como se um católico fosse para o céu, sem pressas de lá chegar, a disfrutar da viagem, sem se importar muito com o destino.