15 Great Albums You Probably Didn't Hear in 2017

Rolling Stone critics choose LPs that flew under the radar

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Chris Pitsiokos Unit, 'Before the Heat Death'

Chris Pitsiokos Unit, 'Before the Heat Death'

Whether in the hands of Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman or John Zorn, the alto saxophone has long been an instrument of radical change in jazz. The influence of all three giants is audible in the work of young NYC altoist Chris Pitsiokos, but on this harsh yet revelatory quartet album – featuring fellow intergenre avant-gardists Brandon Seabrook, Tim Dahl and Weasel Walter on guitar, bass and drums, respectively – he puts forth his own startlingly original vision. Tracks like "Fried" and "Death in the Afternoon" move from hyperactive freeform scramble to viselike compositional precision, while "Quantized" and "Wet Brain" suggest a herky-jerky punk-funk outfit's bent take on prog. Throughout the record, the leader's astonishingly fleet sax work – sometimes darting and soulful, sometimes squalling and unhinged – explodes with urgency and feverish invention. Hank Shteamer

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