Mark Helias: New School (enja 9431:48:51) ****
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
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.
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.