Highly regarded bassist Mark Helias is also a fine composer and bandleader. His latest effort "Fictionary" is a live recording featuring Mark Feldman; violin, Ellery Eskelin; sax, Mike Sarin and Tom Rainey on drums.
This cd captures performances from Helias' unit during the 1995 Groningen and 1996 Nijmegen jazz festivals. The interplay is magnificent. Helias compositions are perfect vehicles for extroadinary improv between violinist Feldman and the astounding Eskelin on tenor sax. The pace varies from tune to tune but the key ingredients here are the conveyance of fresh ideas coupled with mind boggling technique and captivating improvisation.
Helias' apprenticeship with Gerry Hemmingway, Ray Anderson, Anthony Braxton and numerous other jazz luminaries has caught the attention of most serious jazz afficionados; however, he has released a string of fine solo recordings over the years, this being among his best. Helias' while possessing monterous chops is equally adept at employing space and color. His compositions here are definitive pieces which at times appear to be angular and complex; however, he maintains strong sensibilities of swing. Helias' gives Eskelin and Feldman room to breath fire. They dart through these compositions with explosive forays into jazz improvisation mania ! The interplay is a thing of beauty. The dialogue inherent in this band suggests that they were pulling out all the stops yet having tons of fun. Tom Rainey sits behind the drum kit on Area 51; thus, Mike Sarin appears on all other tracks. Honorable mention to both drummers for stellar support.
The recording itself is a sonic delight which enhances the overall feel of the live dates. This cd ranks among 1998's best. I would also highly recommend this cd to the student of jazz improvisation and composition.
Tracks:The Comb Over; Looking Up From Heaven; Hands Down; Fictionary; Area 51; Douglas Fir; Haymaker
Personnel: Mark Helias: bass; Mike Sarin : drums; Tom Rainey: drums; Ellery Eskelin: tenor saxophone; Mark Feldman: drums.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.