A long-time associate of drummer Edward Blackwell, Ray Anderson and Gerry Hemingway, white bassist Mark Helias (1950) was also a subtle composer of chamber
Helias debuted as a leader with the bold, avantgarde Split Image (august 1984), for a quartet With tenorist Dewey Redman, altoist Tim Berne, trumpeter Herb Robertson and Hemingway, that contained Helias' extended compositions Lands End, Le Tango and Z-5.
The Current Set (march 1987) was a more structured affair, delivered by a sextet with Berne, Robertson, soprano saxophonist Greg Osby, trombonist Robin Eubanks and drummer Victor Lewis, whose best pieces (The Current Set, Ellipsis, Lism) relished the tension between traditional form and free-form interplay.
Desert Blue (april 1989) was even more lightweight, despite the addition of keyboardist Antony Davis (also on synthesizer) and Marty Ehrich on sax and clarinet to Roberson's trumpet (Jerome Harris on guitar, Pheeeman Aklaff on drums).
Helias returned to form as a composer with Attack The Future (march 1990), that featured Robertson, Michael Moore on alto and clarinet, David Lopato on piano and Tom Rainey on drums unleashed in the 12-minute Gnomeswalk and the 26-minute suite Knitting or Quitting.
Influenced by Charles Mingus as a bassist and by Dave Holland as a composer, Helias could occasionally secrete the best of the two.
Helias did not record for a while, although he composed
Upside the Downside (1992) for string trio.
The composer found perhaps his best balance of avantgarde and tradition, as well as of black and ethnic music, on Loopin' The Cool (december 1994), highlighted by the sophisticated interplay between violinist Regina Carter and tenorist Ellery Eskelin and propelled by Rainey and Guinean percussionist Abdoulaye Epizo Bangoura (the convoluted Seventh Sign but also the Afro-funky Thumbs Up).
The live quartet date Fictionary (november 1996) with Eskelin, violinist Mark Feldman and different drummers produced relaxed pieces such as The Comb Over, Hands Down and Area 51.
Helias' shift towards the mainstream continued with Open Loose, initially a trio with Rainey and Eskelin, that released Come Ahead Back (1998), the live live New School (september 2000),
Verbs of Will (november 2002) and
Explicit: Live At The Sunset (april 2011).
Dunmall formed the Sun Quartet with Tony Malaby (both on tenor sax, but Dunmall also on bagpipes), Kevin Norton (drums and vibraphone) and Mark Helias (bass) that debuted on Ancient and Future Airs (june 2008).
BassDrumBone was a trio formed by bassist Mark Helias, drummer Gerry Hemingway and trombonist Ray Anderson that released
the live Hence The Reason (march 1996),
the live March Of Dimes (september 1997),
Cooked To Perfection (1999), collecting pieces recorded in 1986, 1987 and 1996,
The Line Up (2006),
The Other Parade (august 2009),
and the double-disc The Long Road (august 2013), featuring guests Jason Moran (piano) and Joe Lovano (tenor sax).
Open Loose, now featuring
Tony Malaby on sax, returned with The Signal Maker (july 2014).
The double-disc Wild Lines (april 2017) documents saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom along with Dawn Clement (piano), Mark Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums) in a work inspired by Emily Dickinson's poems.
Helias played on the Marrow's Ejdeha (Songlines, 2018), led by oud player Gordon Grdina and featuring Hank Roberts (cello) and Hamin Honari on Persian percussion, and on
Head Under Water (july 2017) with saxophonists Rob Burke and Tony Malaby.
Available Light (late 1990s) is a "solo contrabass" album.
Third Proposition (february 2000) documents a trio with Tom Rainey (drums) and Tony Malaby (tenor sax).
Roof Rights (november 2000) documents a live performance with David Ades (alto sax), Gerald Cleaver (drums), Tony Malaby (tenor sax), James Greening (trombone) and Scott Tinkler (trumpet).
Helias also played the organ on
Sequestered (released in 2020 but composed years earlier)
alongside Ralph Alessi (trumpets), Jerome Harris (guitars) and Bobby Previte (drums).
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