Reviews that mention Mark Helias

December 7, 2018

Tyshawn Sorey

Pillars
Firehouse 12 Records FH12--01-02-028

Grenscó/Dukay/Kovács Tickmayer/Holló

Essays-Esszék

Adyton/Hunnia Records HRCD 1726

Joëlle Léandre

Strings Garden

Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 103/2018

William Parker

Voices Fall from the Sky

Centering 1015/1016/1017

Something in the Air: Multiple Sonic Pleasures Available from Multi-Disc Sets

By Ken Waxman

When inspiration refuses to be limited by the single disc format, enterprising musicians record multi CDs in order to showcase more aspects of their work. Such collections are released throughout the year, but it’s usually the holiday season when music fans have the time and inclination for extended listening. Here’s a sampling of some of this year’s most accomplished multiple CD sets from the exploratory side of creative music. MORE

December 21, 2017

Guelph Jazz Festival

September 13-17, 2017
By Ken Waxman

Striding confidentially towards its 2018 silver anniversary, this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) was invigorated with choice concerts throughout this Ontario college town. There were artists from the United States and Europe, yet two of the notable performances were from Canadian bands. Underlying their set at the Silence arts space September 15 with processed whooshes, pulses and hums, the Montreal-based members of Jane and the Magic Banana (JMB) found that sweet spot where punk attitude, tremolo oscillations and free experimentation locked together. Consisting of guitarist Sam Shalabi, electric bassist Alexandre St-Onge and drummer Michel F. Côté, all of whom used electronic processing JMB set was characterized by quick manipulation of a continuous drone which never sacrificed narrative for effects. Two nights later at the Cooperators Hall (CH), River Run Centre the Medham quartet playing a bracing set which nearly overwhelmed with ingenuity while adhering most closely to jazz conventions. With one dozen tunes given body by steady slaps or buzzing Arco from bassist Nicolas Caloia matched by the patterning groove from drummer Isaiah Ciccarelli, these two Montrealers, plus a third, growling baritone saxophonist Jason Sharp provided the backing and in Sharp’s rippling blasts, the challenge, to Vancouver-based violinist Josh Zubot’s slick, staccato horn-like sweeps. Dazzling as he swept or plucked his strings as the rhythm section output a connective beat, the violinist replied in kind to any sonic provocation from the others. MORE

September 8, 2017

BassDrumBone

The Long Road
Auricle Records AUR 16/17

Anemone

A Wing Dissolved in Light

NoBusiness Records NBLP 105

Toxic

This is Beautiful because we are Beautiful People

ESP-Disk ESP 5011

Brötzmann/Swell/Nilssen-Love

Krakow Nights

Not Two MW-937-2

Something in the Air: New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman

After a couple of quiet years the annual Guelph Festival (GJF), September 13 to September 17, is newly energized and asserting its role as one of Canada’s most consistent showcases of adventurous music. Another reason for this year’s buzz is that besides the outstanding Canadian and American musicians consistently featured at the GJF, major European improvisers will be on hand as well. MORE

August 6, 2016

Festival Report

Ljubljana Jazz Festival
By Ken Waxman

Located on both banks of the picturesque Ljubljanica River, Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, is a pleasant city containing, unique historical edifices mostly designed by the city’s early 20th century starchitect Jože Plečnik. Ljubljana is replete with pedestrian-only areas, especially near the iconic Triple Bridge, with parts of its main street restricted to public transit and bicycles. In modern times, Ljubljana has been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, under Italian or French control, ruled by native dictators and kings and a member of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Declaring independence in 1991, Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004. Always supportive of improvised music, the Ljubljana Jazz Festival celebrated its 57th anniversary June 29th-July 2nd this year. Performances were presented in different indoor spaces and the back-garden of the multi-level Cankarjev Dom cultural centre, one of Europe’s largest. MORE

March 7, 2016

On The Cover

Michael Formanek
Going the Distance

By Ken Waxman

Bassist Michael Formanek admits that until recently he never really ‘loved” big band music, even though he had played his share of it during the quarter century he spent in New York before 2003. In Manhattan, as an in-demand sideman, among his other jobs, he put in time with the Mingus big band plus large groups led by pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and saxophonist Bob Mintzer. But Formanek, 58, who has gigged almost constantly since at 18, in his native San Francisco, he began working with major innovators including drummer Tony Williams and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, was in NYC closely identified with what he calls “more intense improvisation”. He led his own small acoustic groups and was featured in many so-called downtown bands, most prominently those led by alto saxophonist Tim Berne. MORE

September 16, 2015

Kirk Knuffke

Arms & Hands
Royal Potato Family RPF

Tom Trio

Radical Moves

ForTune 0045 032

Circumventing the limitations of the brass-double bass-drums format with contrasting game plans are Polish trumpeter Tomaz Dąbrowski and American cornetist Kirk Knuffke. Each has come up with an equitable and equally valid solution to the challenge.

Dąbrowski, who now lives in Copenhagen structures his compositions on the Tom Trio’s second CD to take full advantage of the varied tempos, rhythms and interactions available from his improvising and that of bassist Nils Bo Davidsen and drummer Anders Mogensen, both in-demand players on the Danish scene. Cheating a bit, Knuffke’s newly constituted trio with veterans, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bill Goodwin, features individual cameo appearances on six tracks by trombonist Brian Drye, alto saxophonist Daniel Carter and tenor and soprano saxophonist Jeff Lederer. Considering that the CD is made up of 15 tracks, including a concluding version of Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours’ 1964 hit “Thanks a Lot”, the additional players broaden Arms & Hands scope, with the core trio featured enough to demonstrate its innate communication skills. MORE

November 11, 2014

Festival Report

Sibiu Jazz and More
By Ken Waxman

Situated in the dead center of Romania, Sibiu is a fortified medieval city of winding streets, whose hub is the connected Grand (Piața Mare) and Lesser (Piața Mica) squares, where every building appears to be of historical importance. Populated by citizens of German, Transylvanian and Romanian background, it seems appropriate that the Jazz and More (JAM) Festival highlighted high-quality international improvisers annually.

Chicago drummer Tim Daisy was one player whose performance and demeanor reflected Sibiu’s cooperative history during JAM’s 10th edition October 3 to 5. Not only did he turn in a spectacular display of free jazz interaction with long-time partner tenor and alto saxophonist Dave Rempis at JAM’s main venue, the soft-seated Teatrul Gong, but later that same night played a sympathetic duet set with Bucharest-based pianist Mircea Tiberian at the basement Bohemian Flow club in Piața Mica, then participated in a jam session that went on to 5 a.m. With Rempis, an animated Daisy bounced up, down as he clanked and clicked every variety of cymbals, blocks, bells, chains and other paraphernalia. In contrast the reedist stood stock still, reeling out stuttering, slurring or slashing phrases in many registers and intensities which angled perfectly into the drummer’s narratives Adding rhythmic blues riffs and Africanized inflections to tonal deconstruction, the duo ensured that each improvisation flowed logically from thematic roots and swung hard in its own fashion. Feeling his way with Tiberian, who craftily extracted multi-hued rhythm plus Monk-like single-note emphasis from an electric piano, Daisy was initially deferential. Quickly through drum-top dusting gave way to resonating buzzes and echoing strokes. By the time Tiberian was mixing staccato smears with dramatic theme extensions, the drummer uncorked enough rocking clatter to echo off the club’s stained brick walls. MORE

September 26, 2014

Jon Irabagon

It Takes All Kinds
JazzWerkstatt JW 139

Assif Tsahar/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway

Code Re(a)d

Hopscotch Records HOP48

Two youngish tenor saxophonists provide their own takes on the classic sax-double bass-drums formation with these discs attaining, but not surpassing, the praxis defined by progenitors like Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler and Joe Henderson. Very much Free Jazz rather than Free Music, each CD has eight tracks and each is splendidly performed. The main demarcation is that Jon Irabagon’s It Takes All Kinds is a saxophone tour-de-force backed by a veteran rhythm section, whereas Code Re(a)d is more of a group effort with contributions from reedist Assif Tsahar, bassist Mark Dresser and percussionist Gerry Hemingway. MORE

May 14, 2014

Uri Caine Ensemble

Rhapsody in Blue
Winter & Winter 910.905-2

Théo Ceccaldi Trio +1
Can You Smile?

Ayler Records AYLCD 136

Samo Salamon & Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra

Free Strings Orchestrology

KGOSF VD 013

Nils Wogram & Root 70 with strings

Riomar

Wog Records 007

Vijay Iyer

Mutations

ECM CD 2372

Something In The Air: Innovative Writing for Strings and Improvisers

By Ken Waxman

As genres draw closer to one another, the idea of a musician from one area playing and composing a work in another area doesn’t seem so far-fetched. More importantly the sophistication of many contemporary performers means that these inter-genre excursions are triumphant rather than merely passable. One form that is being explored by improvised musicians for instance is composing for the bedrock of the so-called classical music tradition: string groupings. MORE

October 14, 2013

Scott Neumann

Blessed
Origin Records 82645

By Ken Waxman

Out of left field, drummer Scott Neumann has come up with as album of unexpected excellence. Neither an avant-garde breakthrough nor a mainstream run-though, the CD confirms jazz’s abiding strengths. Neumann’s one of the many unjustly almost-unknown improviser/composers who with little fanfare create first-rate CDs, easily as good as anything released by poll winners and media darlings.

A journeyman, Brooklyn-based Neumann has been a pro since he was 13, with a career gigging with big bands, combos and singers; in Broadway pit bands; plus university teaching positions. Neu3 is filled out by better-known stylists who are also leaders. Soprano and tenor saxophonist Michael Blake has known Neumann since 1987 when they met at the Banff Centre. Bassist Mark Helias and the drummer have been played together since 2009. MORE

June 13, 2013

Festival Report:

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
By Ken Waxman

Metaphorically and literally the 2013 edition of the Ulrichsberger Kaldeidophon moved further afield than usual for a festival that has taken place annually at the Jazzatelier in this Austrian alpine village of 3,000 inhabitants near Linz. Not only were improvisers from the UK, US, Eastern and Western Europe represented, but for the first time, a concert for clavichord by Japan’s Makiko Nishikaze took place in a restored 14th Century church in Glöckelberg/Zvonkonva, about 10 kilometres away in the Czech Republic. MORE

January 15, 2012

BassDrumBone

The Other Parade
Clean Feed CF 223 CD

Thewes/Oestreich

10 Pieces

Gligg Records 009

Contemporary trombonists’ command of multiphonics as well as more conventional techniques has made their playing more versatile. But it’s still a rare trombonist who is confident enough to have his as the only horn in any sort of ensemble. Two who face the challenge admirably are American Ray Anderson, one-third of the 33-year-old BassDrumBone band and German Christof Thewes, part of numerous Continental combinations. The Schiffweiler-based brass man has given himself an even tougher assignment than Anderson. For while the Yank has long been partnered by bassist Mark Helias of New York and drummer Gerry Hemingway, who now lives in Luzerne, 10 Pieces is a CD of stark improv involving Thewes and bassist Jan Oestreich from Saarbrücken. Still, surprisingly or not, both CDs come off as equal, demonstrations of trombone triumphs. MORE

July 12, 2011

Barry Altschul Trio

Brahma
Sackville SKCD2-3023

Julius Hemphill

Roi Boyé & the Gotham Mintrels

Sackville SKCD2-3014/15

Oliver Lake/Julius Hemphill

Buster Bee

Sackville SKCD2-3016

George Lewis

The Solo Trombone Record

Sackville SKCD2-3012

Anthony Davis

Of Blues and Dreams

Sackville SKCD2-3020

Karl Berger & Dave Holland

All Kinds of Time

Sackville SKCD2-3010

Roscoe Mitchell
MORE

July 3, 2009

Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet

Ancient and Future Airs
Clean Feed CF 138 CD

The September Quartet

What Goes Around

Loose Torque LT 015

As he has proved in other situations – most notably his two decades long membership in both the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the collective quartet Mujician – saxophonist Paul Dunmall is the consummate group player.

With wide-ranging influences that take in Carnatic sounds, semi-folk material, so-called Ecstatic Jazz and free-form improv, the London-based musician is known for his tenor saxophone playing, but also tries out other members of the saxophone family – including the saxello – and has recently turned his attention to the border bagpipes. MORE

July 3, 2009

The September Quartet

What Goes Around
Loose Torque LT 015

Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet

Ancient and Future Airs

Clean Feed CF 138 CD

As he has proved in other situations – most notably his two decades long membership in both the London Jazz Composers Orchestra and the collective quartet Mujician – saxophonist Paul Dunmall is the consummate group player.

With wide-ranging influences that take in Carnatic sounds, semi-folk material, so-called Ecstatic Jazz and free-form improv, the London-based musician is known for his tenor saxophone playing, but also tries out other members of the saxophone family – including the saxello – and has recently turned his attention to the border bagpipes. MORE

June 6, 2008

Evan Parker-Mark Wastell-Graham Halliwell-Max Eastley

A Life Saved By a Spider and Two Doves
Another Timbre at06

Kidd Jordan/Kali Z. Fasteau

LIVE at the Kerava Jazz Festival: Finland

Flying Note FNCD 9012

Scott Fields

Bitter Love Songs

Clean Feed CF 102 CD

Open Loose

Strange Unison

Radio Legs RL 013

Jason Stein

A Calculus of Loss

Clean Feed CF 104 CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguments exist as to the commercial benefits of free trade agreements. But musicians wish similar treaties existed for their trade. In the period since NFTA, for instance, the ability of performers to travel across borders has become worse. That’s what makes festival season important. Foreign performers ranging from respected veterans to savvy tyros get Canadian exposure. Recent CDs here capture older jazzers’ alchemy and suggest newer players to watch. MORE

June 6, 2008

Kidd Jordan/Kali Z. Fasteau

LIVE at the Kerava Jazz Festival: Finland
Flying Note FNCD 9012

Evan Parker-Mark Wastell-Graham Halliwell-Max Eastley

A Life Saved By a Spider and Two Doves

Another Timbre at06

Scott Fields

Bitter Love Songs

Clean Feed CF 102 CD

Open Loose

Strange Unison

Radio Legs RL 013

Jason Stein

A Calculus of Loss

Clean Feed CF 104 CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguments exist as to the commercial benefits of free trade agreements. But musicians wish similar treaties existed for their trade. In the period since NFTA, for instance, the ability of performers to travel across borders has become worse. That’s what makes festival season important. Foreign performers ranging from respected veterans to savvy tyros get Canadian exposure. Recent CDs here capture older jazzers’ alchemy and suggest newer players to watch. MORE

June 6, 2008

Scott Fields

Bitter Love Songs
Clean Feed CF 102 CD

Evan Parker-Mark Wastell-Graham Halliwell-Max Eastley

A Life Saved By a Spider and Two Doves

Another Timbre at06

Kidd Jordan/Kali Z. Fasteau

LIVE at the Kerava Jazz Festival: Finland

Flying Note FNCD 9012

Open Loose

Strange Unison

Radio Legs RL 013

Jason Stein

A Calculus of Loss

Clean Feed CF 104 CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguments exist as to the commercial benefits of free trade agreements. But musicians wish similar treaties existed for their trade. In the period since NFTA, for instance, the ability of performers to travel across borders has become worse. That’s what makes festival season important. Foreign performers ranging from respected veterans to savvy tyros get Canadian exposure. Recent CDs here capture older jazzers’ alchemy and suggest newer players to watch. MORE

June 6, 2008

Open Loose

Strange Unison
Radio Legs RL 013

Evan Parker-Mark Wastell-Graham Halliwell-Max Eastley

A Life Saved By a Spider and Two Doves

Another Timbre at06

Kidd Jordan/Kali Z. Fasteau

LIVE at the Kerava Jazz Festival: Finland

Flying Note FNCD 9012

Scott Fields

Bitter Love Songs

Clean Feed CF 102 CD

Jason Stein

A Calculus of Loss

Clean Feed CF 104 CD

By Ken Waxman

Arguments exist as to the commercial benefits of free trade agreements. But musicians wish similar treaties existed for their trade. In the period since NFTA, for instance, the ability of performers to travel across borders has become worse. That’s what makes festival season important. Foreign performers ranging from respected veterans to savvy tyros get Canadian exposure. Recent CDs here capture older jazzers’ alchemy and suggest newer players to watch. MORE

June 6, 2008

Jason Stein

A Calculus of Loss
Clean Feed CF 104 CD

Evan Parker-Mark Wastell-Graham Halliwell-Max Eastley

A Life Saved By a Spider and Two Doves

Another Timbre at06

Kidd Jordan/Kali Z. Fasteau

LIVE at the Kerava Jazz Festival: Finland

Flying Note FNCD 9012

Scott Fields

Bitter Love Songs

Clean Feed CF 102 CD

Open Loose

Strange Unison

Radio Legs RL 013

By Ken Waxman

Arguments exist as to the commercial benefits of free trade agreements. But musicians wish similar treaties existed for their trade. In the period since NFTA, for instance, the ability of performers to travel across borders has become worse. That’s what makes festival season important. Foreign performers ranging from respected veterans to savvy tyros get Canadian exposure. Recent CDs here capture older jazzers’ alchemy and suggest newer players to watch. MORE

September 25, 2006

MALABY/SANCHEZ/RAINEY

Alive in Brooklyn Vol. 2
Sarama Records No #

MARK HELIAS' OPEN LOOSE
Atomic Clock
Radio Legs RL 012

By Ken Waxman

What a difference one musician makes. Both these sessions were recorded two months apart in the same Brooklyn club by the same engineer and with two of three players on both discs. So why then does ATOMIC CLOCK tick with barely repressed animation, while ALIVE IN BROOKLYN seems to meander?

However facile the answer may seem, responsibility shouldn’t rest with Angelica Sanchez, who plays electric piano in place of Mark Helias’ bass, featured on the first disc. Sanchez, a fine pianist and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby’s spouse, obviously has a close bond with him. Drummer Tom Rainey, the last member of the trio has played with both husband and wife for years. In truth there’s also some sameness on ATOMIC CLOCK since, except for one track, where Open Loose is joined by Ellery Eskelin, its previous tenor player, there aren’t that many textures that three instruments can wring from a limited sound field. MORE

May 7, 2006

QUINSIN NACHOFF

Magic Numbers
Songlines SGL SA1556-2

ASSIF TSAHAR
Solitude
Hopscotch Records HOP 36

Conventional and unconventional methods of recording with a string quartet are highlighted on these CDs directed by vastly different reed players.

On MAGIC NUMBERS Toronto-based tenor and soprano saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff has taken the traditional route – composing eight pieces that feature him, plus New Yorkers, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Jim Black, improvising in front of a quartet of Montreal string players. In vivid contrast, except for the Duke Ellington-penned title track, all the pieces on SOLITUDE are instant compositions with Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Assif Tsahar giving equal prominence to percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and members of the KJLA String Quartet. MORE

January 10, 2006

Dylan van der Schyff

The Definition of a Toy
Songlines SGL SA1554-2

Half of Vancouver’s first family of improvised music – with cellist Peggy Lee – drummer Dylan van der Schyff organized this international contingent for a hometown concert.

The results prove that when musicians have a connective history, an exceptional program can be developed after one rehearsal. Trumpeter Brad Turner and van der Schyff have played together since the 1990s; New York bassist Mark Helias and Amsterdam-based reedist Michael Moore met in 1978; and German pianist Achim Kaufmann has toured with Moore and the drummer since 2000. MORE

December 26, 2005

GERRY HEMINGWAY QUARTET

The Whimbler
Clean Feed CF 040CD

GERRY HEMINGWAY QUINTET
Double Blues Crossing
Between The Lines BTLCHR 71202

Americana roots music has been around a lot longer than when the music business decided to give it a name about a decade ago. In reality you could probably stick into that category just about any sincere jazz, blues or country music made over the past 90 years.

Thus it shouldn’t be a surprise to realize that on parts of DOUBLE BLUES CROSSING – especially the opening six-part suite that gives the CD its name – percussionist Gerry Hemingway has written a piece that’s as rootsy as anything performed by country music pioneers the Carter Family or bluesman Sleepy John Estes. In performance it’s an updating of mountain music string band sounds – or close as you get when three-fifths of the band are Europeans. MORE

February 14, 2005

Benoît Delbecq Unit

Phonetics
Songlines

Defoort/Turner/Thys/Black
Sound Plaza
W.E.R.F.

By Ken Waxman
February 14, 2005

Jazz’s universality now means that having Americans record with a European leader is no novelty. In the 21st Century, the match-up isn’t like those LPs of the 1950s and 1960s that featured Bud Powell playing with no name sidemen or Zoot Sims “visiting Paris”.

Today if “foreigners” are on a date, it’s because the leader figures they’ll add something unique to his vision. Which is what happens on these two discs by pianists, that serendipitously both feature tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, putting him in unexpected situations for a California-raised so-called young lion. MORE

October 18, 2004

DENNIS GONZÁLEZ NEW YORK QUARTET

NY Midnight Suite
Clean Feed 20

DENNIS GONZÁLEZ’S INSPIRATION BAND
Nile River Suite
Daagnim CD9

Products of a two-day bushman’s holiday in the Big Apple by Dallas-based trumpeter Dennis González, these CDs should irrefutably proves that non-New Yorkers can show Naked City denizens a thing or two.

González, who is also a schoolteacher and a visual artist, runs a supportive co-op organization in Dallas and in the past has recorded with other advanced hinterland players like New Orleans saxist Kidd Jordan and Chicago bassist Malachi Favors. Taking two suites of compositions with him, the brassman plus local drummer Michael Thompson recorded these two CDs in two days with different bands of New York’s finest. MORE

October 27, 2003

MARK HELIAS’ OPEN LOOSE

Verbs Of Will
Radio Legs RL 011

DAY AND TAXI
Private
Percaso 20

Differences that exist between these two saxophone-bass-and-drums sessions hinge less on the fact that one trio is Swiss and one American, than the comparisons extant from a working group and a newly constituted one.

Bassist Mark Helias’ Open Loose trio has been around for awhile, with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey filling it out for the past couple of years. VERB OF WILLS is a record of how the three sounded after playing together for weeks on an extended West Coast tour. MORE

October 6, 2003

OLIVER LAKE BIG BAND

Cloth
Passin’ Thru 41217

Thirty years ago when alto saxophonist Oliver Lake was one of the young firebrands involved with the Black Artists Group (BAG), St. Louis’ version of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians who knew that by 2003 he’d turn into … Count Basie?

Well, not really, though the comparison is meant as a compliment. It’s just that Lake, who over the years has involved himself in so many different groups from the still-thriving World Saxophone Quartet, to the R&B-influenced Jump Up group, has now put together a regulation-sized big band that swings with the unfettered grace of any of Basie’s aggregations. MORE

October 21, 2002

VON FREEM AN

The Improvisor
Premonition Records 66917 90757 2 3

Resorting to clichés when writing about Von Freeman is easy. A, quote, “living legend” end quote, in his home town of Chicago, he turned 80 this month (on October 3) and, as the phrase makers would have it, never quote “rests on his laurels” end quote, and quote “plays with the energy of a man half his age” end quote.

All this is true enough, but unlike other honored septuagenarian or octogenarian jazzers, Freeman is doing more than merely playing with the artistic maturity he exhibited in his forties, fifties, sixties ands seventies: he’s trying new things as well. This CD, recorded when he was a mere 79, finds him not only working with his regular band, at a live gig he’s had at South Side club for 20 years of Tuesdays, but also with an out-of-town rhythm section. It also features a duet on an obscure Duke Ellington line with him and New York pianist Jason Moran, who is more than 50 years Freeman’s junior. Plus the album begins with an unaccompanied tenor saxophone version of the standard “If I Should Leave You”, where Freeman mixes the sensuality of a Gene Ammons with the cold steel of a Sonny Rollins. MORE

November 5, 2001

MARK HELIAS' OPEN LOOSE

New School
Enja ENJ-9413 2

Mark Helias is a relaxed sort of guy. At least that's what you figure when you see him play, and on evidence of the tunes on this fine CD here.

That doesn't mean that the bassist isn't an intense improviser on stage, or a consummate advanced composer. It's just after 25 years in the jazz trenches, working alongside the likes of Ed Blackwell, Dewey Redman, Ray Anderson and Gerry Hemingway, he doesn't have to keep himself front-and-centre all the time.

He's confident enough in his ability that while Open Loose is definitely his band -- he wrote all the tunes and has his name is on top -- there's more than enough space on this CD to show off the skills of drummer Tom Rainey and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby. MORE

March 5, 2001

MARK DRESSER/MARK HELIAS

The Marks Brothers
W.E.R.F. 022

Get rid of that mental picture of Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo when thinking about this CD. Those Marx Brothers -- with a different spelling -- really were brothers and created some of the superlative comedies of the 20th century. These Marks Brothers aren't related, but are two of the most creative acoustic bass players in the world.

Of course, anyone contemplating an entire disc of bass duets may think it's a joke as well. Well, t'ain't funny McGee. Both Helias and Dresser have the skills and talents to make a double double bass program as absorbing as anything put together by any number of other instruments.

MORE