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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mark Helias - Atomic Clock (Radio Legs, 2006) ****

Bassist Mark Helias delivers a great album here, with his ensemble "Open Loose", consisting of Tony Malaby on sax and Tom Rainey on drums, and with Ellery Eskelin joining on one piece. These three stellar musicians bring modern jazz as it ought to be played : exciting, sensitive, technically strong and in symbiotic interplay. Highlights include Malaby's howling solo on "Chavez", the rhythm and tempo changes in "Cinematic", the slow, bluesy "Momentum Interrupted", the joint crying and mutually comforting saxes of Eskelin and Malaby on "Modern Scag", the avantgardistic and ultra-short "Atomic Clock", the emotional tension of "Zephyr" ... and I could go on, and those are many highlights for just one album.

The band's name is no accident either. Helias lays a solid foundation with his compositions, but once that's established, the musicians build a very open and loose structure on top of it, very airy and with lots of improvizations, allowing the whole architecture to still evolve through the dynamics of the interplay, which strongly increases the expressive power of the whole. Recommended.