Mark Helias Open Loose: The Signal Maker

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Mark Helias Open Loose: The Signal Maker
Bassist Mark Helias runs a tight ship. Not in the sense of tricksy arrangements or impossible time signatures. It's more the laser sharp focus his accomplished Open Loose combo brings to the job in hand. And that job is breathing bustling and unpredictable life into the baker's dozen selections that constitute The Signal Maker, the unit's 7th release since 1998. Drummer Tom Rainey has been there since the inception, while saxophonist Tony Malaby is the new boy, having joined a year later. What's impressive is that they still find worthwhile things to say together, helped in no little regard by the ten varied frameworks which the bassist provides, designed to encourage open improvisation.

Malaby deploys a pliable muscularity that sees his lines edging into overblowing then pulling back and veering into other areas, be that lightly lyrical licks or muffled vocalization. He has a chameleon-like ability to sound like different players between or even within cuts, though there are actually two of him on the lilting "Brothers" where overdubs enable his soprano and tenor saxophones to intermingle on the head. Rainey forges his customary amalgam of rhythmic ingenuity and timbral smarts, and completes a highly simpatico pairing with the leader's deep growling bass.

Interspersed among Helias' charts, three group inventions, clocking in at over six minutes each, form not only the longest tracks on this studio session but also the most compelling. That's because after 16 years as a working band they possess the trust and shared knowledge to go beyond the norms of extemporization truly into the realms of spontaneous composition. Both Malaby and Rainey are masters of deconstruction: they sketch out collective ideas with the merest gestures which don't need to be filled out to succeed. They allow silence to ring, and undertake sudden switches of gear, as with the spirited outburst that emerges towards the close of "End Point ."

It proves that if they are looking for future options they could do a lot worse than dispense with the safety net of written parts entirely.

Track Listing

The Signal Maker; Ca Vous Gene; Largesse;Post Post; Vocalise; Soliloquy; End Point; Brothers; Fast Feast; Motoric; Temoine; You'll Never Guess; Initialize.


Mark Helias: bass; Tony Malaby: saxophone; Tom Rainey: drums.

Album information

Title: The Signal Maker | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Intakt Records


View events near New York City
Jazz Near New York City
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Shop Amazon


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.