Mark Helias

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The Current Set

This album has quite an impact when you first put it on, as the theme of the title track moves from richly scored contrapuntal tension to a cascading swing release: this is thoroughly contemporary, progressive jazz with an immediate and obvious appeal. After bassist Helias’ brilliant theme, soprano player Greg Osby analyses what has just taken place in his abstruse Bunky Green-influenced fashion, before Robin Eubanks’ trombone provides some more conventional free jazz swinging. The soloists who really dominant the album, however, are trumpeter Herb Robertson and especially altoist Tim Berne, a combination familiar from many of Berne’s classic albums. It’s hard not to think of this as a classic Berne album itself, in fact, since it features the usual fluctuations between spacey, free- form explorations, and avant-garde climaxes, all immaculately linked up by detailed arrangements and plenty of opportunities to swing; the extent of the influence becomes clear if you listen to some of Helias’ other albums, which aren’t really in the same bag. The other clear highlight, on an album where everything works, is ‘Greetings from L.C.’, another extremely catchy tune with a sumptuous arrangement, on which Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos steals the show.