Mark Helias




This was a golden collaboration such as only festivals can foster. US bassist Mark Helias was already bringing his exceptional Open Loose trio (with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Gerald Cleaver) to the 2000 Wangaratta Festival, and suggested adding three local horn players for an extra sextet concert. He penned the music, and the one rehearsal confirmed that festival director Adrian Jackson had chosen ideal musicians in trumpeter Scott Tinkler, alto saxophonist David Ades and trombonist James Greening.

This digital-only release shows just what a fearless enterprise it was, the players chewing up the challenges that Helias laid out before them, so the collective was more like an established group than a pick-up band. The music often has a ferocious, primal edge to it, even as it exudes joy and a deeper beauty. Despite the extremely resonant room, the live recording provides an accurate reflection of individual sounds so full-hearted and startling that the ensemble passages seem much larger than a sextet. Through it all runs Helias’ sinewy bass playing and bristling imagination as a composer. If you were there, you’ll want to hear it again, and if you weren’t, here’s your chance.