[They] produce a dynamic balance between written and improvised music.
John Eyles 2002
The trio's name "Open Loose" refers not only to its musical style, but also to its personnel, which has seen frequent changes. Mark Helias' compositions are written with plenty of space in them, and are designed to be interpreted openly and loosely. They allow for seamless transitions between composed passages and improvisation, never easy to achieve.
This threesome fully exploits the creative possibilities of the compositions, never opting for a clichéd theme-solos-theme format. The group has the knack of starting with a rather loose - sometimes even ramshackle - piece and slowly allowing it to evolve until it emerges as a tight theme; for example, "Mapa" has a rather impressionistic opening and builds to a tightly syncopated ensemble finale.
Last time out, on the fine album Come Ahead Back, Open Loose featured Ellery Eskelin on tenor, plus Helias and Rainey. In this incarnation, now together for some two years, Malaby replaces Eskelin. Malaby's star has been rising in recent years, thanks to work with Marty Ehrlich, Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, and his own quartet. His playing here will further advance that rise. In freely improvised passages, he displays a penchant for melody and structure that gives them a sense of order. The trio's time and experience together is clearly evident from their interactions; they know and understand each other's playing. No-one dominates because no-one needs to; the three players seem to know and trust each other. They play with great economy throughout - there are no grandstanding gestures here, despite this being a live recording - and produce a dynamic balance between written and improvised music.