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Mark Helias’ Open Loose: New School

There’s a lot of truth-in-advertising in the particulars of this title: Mark Helias’ Open Loose, New School, being the empathetic trio of bassist Helias, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey. “New school” could describe where these musicians are coming from, an extension of older improv-based jazz paradigms but with a fresh and personal twist. It also refers to the New School University where the trio concretized, the basis of this wondrous, ear-opening recording. Then there’s the matter of bassist Helias’ aptly named group Open Loose, an operative term for a group that moves easily between the abstract and the structural. Each player, in his own right, provides enough conceptual boldness and ears wide open to make it all work. Helias weaves seamlessly in and out of avant situations, and Rainey’s playing affirms his status as an undersung fiery poet of the drums. Unlike some free-minded entities, concision is a concern here: on this 50-minute CD, there are actually seven tracks, most of which have germs of structure-like the squirmy little heads of “Startle” and “Mapa”-from which the players allow themselves to depart and detour in artful ways.

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