Strange Unison is, then, an accessible and finely executed piece of trio work.
Chris Jones 2008
One thing that never gets mentioned in relation to jazz trios is the sheer NERVE involved. Piano trios are textually easier to embrace, with all that chordal warmth fleshing out the bare bones. But with a sax, bass and drums you better be sure you know what you're doing. Bassist Helias, whose track record includes sessions with Anthony Braxton, Dewey Redman, Mose Allison and Don Cherry (amongst hundreds of others) is, of course, well up to the job, as are the other two members of Open Loose: Tony Malaby (sax) and Tom Rainey (Drums). Strange Unison, their fifth album - is a fine demonstration of how to make such tricky music sound remarkably relaxed and easy.
At times the free form nature of the band's blowing allows Helias to fully explore every inch of his instrument, from the bridge to the shell and all points in between, very much as another recent pioneer of the low end, Dan Berglund of E.S.T, does. On Irrational the entire ensemble really get to grips with their kit. But at other times this is a tighter-than-you-think proposition. What may start as something seemingly extemporised will morph into an amazingly tight exploration, such as the Mingus-like passages at the end of Sonic Rights. But the trio's real favoured method of expression is their beloved NY hipster swing. Time and time again they retyurn to a high hat-driven bop template that oozes slinky street style as on John And Marks, Silent Stutter or CBJ. It's a warm, emotive sound that allows Malaby to have oodles of fun while sometimes seeming a little too cosy. But this is American jazz, not European, and Wibutee this is not. It still bursts with fearsome technique.
Strange Unison is, then, an accessible and finely executed piece of trio work. Not overly challenging, but still brave...