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Artist Profiles

Mark Helias

By Published: February 22, 2007
Helias plays in a duo with fellow bassist Mark Dresser called the Marks Brothers and he has developed a vast repertoire for solo bass. He plans to participate in a memorial concert next month at Juilliard for Mensch who died in 2005. During a visit to the hospital days before the bassist's death, Helias glimpsed an upright bass in the shower stall. "He was giving lessons in the room, he exclaimed. "When you're in the presence of someone with that kind of commitment and artistry and discipline, this is an opportunity for you to see how it's done and model that technique of learning. I believe when you teach, you're teaching people how to teach themselves. The point is to get them on their own to find out who they are and what they want to do. Ultimately it's about expression. Helping people to find a way of expressing themselves and getting to what they want to say.

Helias teaches at Sarah Lawrence, the New School and the School for Improvised Music (SIM) and while he can get skeptical about the state of humanity, he saw some positive occurrences last month during a weeklong seminar at SIM. "I was very impressed with the people, he said. "You've got 25 strangers putting ensembles together and working together—that takes a great deal of courage and sublimation of the negative parts of the ego, overcoming your fear and being generous with yourself and other people. I witnessed a beautiful coming together and the music that resulted was phenomenal.

This, says Helias, is what life is all about. "When you think about the culture we live in, to be able to make a living playing music that really enlivens you every time you do it? Too many people give up on doing something in life that really inspires them. Don't watch CNN, don't watch Fox News, don't watch stupid television shows - read some books, go to the theater, go hear music, speak with your friends, have experiences that are real... People think self- expression is a provenance of the arts, but it's not, that's where it gets worked out in a lot of cases, but everybody should be into self-expression.

Selected Discography

Mark Helias' Open Loose, Atomic Clock (Radio Legs Music, 2006) Mark Dresser/Mark Helias, The Marks Brothers (Dewerf, 2000)

Marty Ehrlich's Dark Woods Ensemble, Live Wood (Music & Arts, 1996)

BassDrumBone, Wooferlo (Soul Note, 1987)

Dewey Redman, The Struggle Continues (ECM, 1982)

Anthony Braxton, Quintet (Basel) 1977 (hatOLOGY, 1977)

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