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Mark Helias: Atomic Clock (2006)

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Mark Helias: Atomic Clock No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Mark Helias—his big steady bass and organic, his compositions ever-changing—continues to set the standard for making music that bears shape and direction but also celebrates the freedom to improvise openly and... er... loosely. For ten years he and his powerful trio have refined and broadened the scope of this music so by now the players share an ethos that allows them to explore what making music in a group means. It's three individuals bonded by the passion of collaboration.

Atomic Clock was documented by the brilliant and understanding John Rosenberg at Brooklyn's Barbès—the recorded sound and the venue giving the musicians the space to dig down and then soar. Helias is in the captain's seat yet he directs the enterprise in an ego-less fashion, thereby coaxing the fullest expressions from the other players. Saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey (and original Open Loose tenorist Ellery Eskelin added for one track) explore this music and—as Helias describes it—both construct and deconstruct the compositions. Repeated listenings help reveal what at first seems like some free-form wandering—and that's as it should be.

Particularly fetching are several of the slower and more deliberate-sounding tunes. "Chavez, as some Helias-ish notes indicates, suggests a spooky transmogrification from one Chavez into the modern one. "Zephyr is a dark and moody ballad that calls to mind Ornette and his disciple the late Dewey Redman, with whom Helias worked. The leader comes out of the opening statement with a solo that reminds us of his strong individual sound and the fact that it's so beautifully directed towards the totality of the music.

Track Listing: Subway; Chavez; Cinematic; Momentum Interrupted; Modern scag; Atomic Clock; Plantini; What Up; Zephyr; Many Nows.

Personnel: Mark Helias: bass; Tom Rainey: drums, percussion; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone (5).

Record Label: Radio Legs

Style: Modern Jazz


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