The Majesty of the Bass
Among the musicians who have taken up the challenge is Mark Helias. He came late to bass playing, but at Yale University he was fortunate enough to study the full classical repertoire while also performing with master composers and improvisers such as trumpeter Leo Smith and drummer Ed Blackwell. The New Haven jazz scene provided ample opportunity for young rebels to mix with older musicians, and Helias found close friendships with trombonist Ray Anderson and percussionist Gerry Hemingway--their trio, BassDrumBone, celebrated the completion of its third decade as a group a few years ago, and the three still get together to play every now and then.
Helias eventually joined Anthony Braxton's quartet, gaining international recognition and the attention of fellow musicians. After settling in New York he began keeping a busy schedule, working in avant-garde as well as more traditional contexts and also developing his own working ensembles, designed to feature his compositions as well as his improvising skills. He often travels with his Open Loose trio, which consists of tenor saxophone, bass, and drums, but for at least two decades he has also brought together larger groups of musicians in a group he calls Attack the Future, which is a vehicle for more densely scored works.