Reviews of "New School"
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DOWNBEAT March 2002
Mark Helias: New School (enja 9431:48:51) ****

Bassist Helias’ aggregate Open Loose lives up to its name on New School. Helias, tenorist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey are a loose-knit group, playing a lively set of seven pieces at New York’s New School in September 2000. Delicacies, particularly with the bassist and drummer, are oftentimes parlayed against unexpected robust sections. “Molecule” demonstrates the band’s “out” tendencies to balance nuance with ferociousness. The appealing, Ornettish groove of “ Startle” shows the band in a more formal setting. Malaby’s tone reminds me of Joe Lovano at times, His stop-on-a-dime style is ideal for this partly composed/wholly spontaneous format.
John Ephland

Mark Helias' Open Loose "New School" (Enja Records)

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: On September 21, 2000, bassist Mark Helias and Open Loose took the stage at Manhattan's New School University as part of an annual concert series produced by the Jazz Composers Collective. Happily, the tape was rolling and this superb CD is the result. The aptly named trio features tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. Helias pilots the group with a selfless spirit; his compositions walk a fine line between structure and freedom and any of the three instruments can take the lead or recede into the background at any time. Lurching unpredictably between stirring cacophony and wily precision, Open Loose rewrites the rules of jazz trio interaction even as they summon a sound rooted in jazz tradition. Highlights include the driving quasi-funk of "Mapa," the unison themes and frequent tempo shifts of "Startle" and "Pick and Roll," and the moody ballad "Gentle Ben." -- David R. Adler

JAZZ TIMES April 2002

There’s a lot of truth in advertising in the particulars of this title: Mark Helias’ Open Loose, New School (Enja 9413;48:51), being the empathetic trio of bassist Helias, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey, “New School” could describe where these musicians are coming from, an extension of older improv-based jazz paradigms but with a fresh and personal twist. It also refers to the New School University where the trio concretized, the basis of this wondrous, ear-opening recording. then there’s the matter of bassist Helias’ aptly named group Open Loose, an operative term for a group that moves easily between the abstract and the structural. Each player, in his own right, provides enough conceptual boldness and ears wide open to make it all work. Helias weaves seamlessly in and out of avant situations, and Rainey’s playing affirms his status as an undersung fiery poet of the drums. Unlike some free-minded entities, concision is a concern here: on this 50-minute CD, there are actually seven tracks, most of which have germs of structure- like the squirmy little heads of “Startle” and “Mapa” - from which the players allow themselves to depart and detour in artful ways.

All About Jazz Website
The trio’s latest effort was recorded live at New York City’s “ New School for Social Research.” And while the musicians’ tightly organzized foundations ae still in order, they sort of blast through many of these often invigorating arrangements via their variable improvisational flurries. Bassist, Mark Helias and drummer, Tom Rainey render an array of polyrhythmic sequences while frequently maintaining a dynamic pluse. No one gloms the show here, yet Tony Malaby’s commanding performances indicate why he is one of the rising stars of the modern jazz circuit. Simlpy put , this is top-flight stuff!

Mark Helias & Open Loose
New School (Enja)

The trio's name "Open Loose" refers not only to its musical style, but also to its personnel, which has seen frequent changes. Mark Helias' compositions are written with plenty of space in them, and are designed to be interpreted openly and loosely. They allow for seamless transitions between composed passages and improvisation, never easy to achieve.
This threesome fully exploits the creative possibilities of the compositions, never opting for a clichéd theme-solos-theme format. The group has the knack of starting with a rather loose -sometimes even ramshackle - piece and slowly allowing it to evolve until it emerges as a tight theme; for example, "Mapa" has a rather impressionistic opening and builds to a tightly syncopated ensemble finale.
Last time out, on the fine album Come Ahead Back, Open Loose featured Ellery Eskelin on tenor, plus Helias and Rainey. In this incarnation, now together for some two years, Malaby replaces Eskelin. Malaby's star has been rising in recent years, thanks to work with Marty Ehrlich, Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, and his own quartet. His playing here willfurther advance that rise. In freely improvised passages, he displays a penchant for melody and structure that gives them a sense of order. The trio's time and experience together is clearly evident from their interactions; they know and understand each other's playing. No-one dominates because no-one needs to; the three players seem to know and trust each other. They play with great economy throughout - there are nograndstanding gestures here, despite this being a live recording - and produce a dynamic balance between written and improvised music.
Reviewer: John Eyles BBC

Concert Review
Jazz Composers Collective Concert Series: Mark Helias’s Open Loose
New School Jazz Performance Space
New York City September 2000
By David R. Adler

There are few jazz ensembles more aptly named than Mark Helias’s Open Loose. The master bassist kicked off a new Jazz Composers Collective concert series with the help of Tony Malaby on tenor sax and Tom Rainey on drums. Dissolving all traditional jazz-trio boundaries, each player helped bring about a combustible stew of sound in which any instrument could take the lead, or recede into the background, at any time. Rainey’s gangly, physical attack was as riveting as ever. Often staring straight ahead as if to visualize the infinite possibilities arrayed before him, the drummer grabbed alternately for the sticks, brushes, and other implements that best expressed the moment. Malaby played complex, ardent solos and effortlessly launched into unpredictable unison passages on cue. Helias piloted the group with an authority, wisdom, and selflessness that brought Dave Holland to mind. His pizzicato and arco playing were equally strong, and his rigorous compositions ("Startle," "Dominoes," "Mapa," "Gentle Ben," and "Pick and Roll") walked a tightrope between stirring cacophony and wily precision

New York's The New School is the venue, and the perfectly named Mark Helias' Open Loose is the star of the show. Tom Rainey's rattling drums and impeccable time, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby's ecstatic roar, and bassist/leader Helias' deep down sound and well-formed lines combine in a powerhouse trio, which had been playing together for about two years at the time of this performance. A mix of Helias' own open-ended compositions, both old and new, forms the raw material for the group. The vibes must have just right on this particular night, as the three are locked into one another's slightest musical gesture in a delightful program full of surprises. Heartily recommended.
Stuart Kremsky

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