Mark Helias’ Open Loose
The Community Music Center
3350 S.E. Francis St.
$10 Creative Music Guild members/students
Tickets at door
This could be a conspiracy, having me write about jazz music. With absolutely no score to settle, no point to prove, I will be forced, for once, to write about music and the way it sounds. I will write about the players and instruments and about what seems to be happening when they come together. This is uncharted territory for me. In the spirit of the music, an improvisational work unfolding onto this page.
Open Loose is a three-piece group currently consisting of mainstay Mark Helias on contrabass, Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone and Tom Rainey on drums.
The trio makes music that is decidedly jazz but that, as the name suggests, is “open” and “loose” about its style. The trio incorporates many styles of jazz into its sound and culls from other sounds as well, such as world music and blues. At times austere and at times surprisingly peppy and flashy, the musicians balance their influences like the seasoned professionals they are.
Not only an accomplished jazz bassist, Helias is notable for his avant-garde tendencies. Beginning his professional career in the mid-’70s, he co-founded a bass, trombone and drum trio, a free-funk ensemble and a world-fusion group in his first decade after graduating from college. Along with releasing a slew of recordings on Enja Records and playing on albums by Cecil Taylor, Mose Allison and others, Helias also produces and composes.
In addition to the jazz stage, Helias has worked in the opera house and the orchestral hall, as well as collaborating with director Jay Anania in scoring two films, “The Pagan Book of Arthur Rimbaud” and “The Citizen.”
Currently, Helias is working on a number of projects. When feeling solitary, he performs and records his Solo Bass pieces. As one half of a duet, Helias plays with bassist Mark Dresser as the Marks Brothers. Open Loose is his trio project. Attack The Future is either a quartet or quintet, depending on the members’ schedules, and the M.O.I. Sextet Project lives up to its name by boasting six members.
Despite his busy schedule, Helias is obviously able to put a great amount of effort into everything he does. Either that or he is an effortlessly brilliant musician. A case for the latter could be made by considering that he started playing the bass at age 20, only a few years before starting his professional career.
Whatever the case may be, Open Loose is perhaps his most acclaimed project, and the most accessible to those new to Helias’ music.