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Mark Helias' Open Loose: Atomic Clock

Nic Jones By

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Bassist Mark Helias has a great band here. All three musicians, augmented by the second tenor sax of Ellery Eskelin on one track, are entirely in tune with each other, and this programme is notable for the high number of occasions when they seem to breathe as one. The perhaps deliberately woozy air of "Modern Scag" is a case in point. Malaby and Eskelin don't so much lock horns as they seem to agree on an approach that takes the music in an entirely different direction, with the spirit of cooperation emerging triumphant accordingly.

"Plantini" has a similar air about it, and proves in itself that this group is about a whole lot more than the mere display of energy levels and the incendiary qualities that might require; the fact of the matter is that whilst Malaby frequently dwells in the upper reaches of his horn, he manages to do so without sounding as though he is straining for effect.

The high-energy thing is not, however, beyond them, and such is the ambience of the opening "Subway" that the listener might just think that he or she is eavesdropping on a piece that could go on for a whole lot longer than it does.

Such is the nature of this trio that the ear might be repeatedly drawn to Malaby's contributions. This would however undermine the essentially democratic nature of the group. There is little of that soloist-with-accompaniment thing going on here, a point perhaps best exemplified by the too brief "Atomic Clock."

Range is also a hallmark, as per "Cinematic," pervaded as it is by the atmosphere of what can only be described as a dark ballad. The balance of light and shade that is thus struck overall is further reward, marking a recital by a group that knows its strengths and how to work with them.


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

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

Title: Atomic Clock | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Radio Legs


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