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Mark Helias: Fictionary

Jim Santella By

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A creative composer and bassist, Mark Helias gathers familiar harmonies and fresh melodies, combines them with checkered rhythms, and produces music guaranteed to hold your interest. Fictionary was recorded at performances in the Netherlands for the Groningen Jazz Festival and the Nijmegen Music Meeting in 1995 and '96, respectively. The quartet, which combines Ellery Eskelin's tenor saxophone with Mark Feldman's violin, Helias' bass, and drums, is aptly named Attack The Future. Tom Rainey was the drummer for the 1995 appearance; Mike Sarin for the latter (You can find background information athttp://home.earthlink.net/~radiolegs/ .

Each of these compositions are by Helias, who slides and bends notes on his bass to express melodies that linger and form pleasant group interaction. "Fictionary" is a slow dramatic piece that emphasizes the artists' interplay. Rainey's percussion marks are syncopated and varied enough to keep the ensemble loose while the others maintain a lyrical team approach. "Area 51" incorporates space and fresh creative expression, while "Douglas Fir" wafts gently with stoic charm. At times the creativity boils over into loud rants, but Helias' walking bass is always there to return a sense of swing and normalcy. The gentle ballad "Looking Up From Heaven" includes lyrical solo work from Helias and Feldman. Their stringed instruments are expressive and infer a Third Stream connection.

"Hands Down" is a lively dance number from the European tradition that allows time for Eskelin and Feldman to stretch out. The saxophonist pushes the envelope with confidence, while the violinist offers virtuoso-like melodies. The quartet offers a fusion of dramatic European dance music with creative improvisation. Highly recommended.

Title: Fictionary | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: W.E.R.F.

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