Mark Helias

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Mark Helias
Mark Helias2.jpg
Helias at Cornelia street cafe, July 2, 2010
Background information
Born (1950-10-01) October 1, 1950 (age 67)
New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, educator
Instruments Double bass
Labels Enja, Radio Legs, Koch, GM
Associated acts Ray Anderson, Slickaphonics, Gerry Hemingway, BassDrumBone, Anthony Braxton, Dewey Redman, Marty Ehrlich

Mark Helias (born October 1, 1950) is an American jazz double bass player and composer born in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

He did not begin playing the double bass until the age of 20, graduating from Yale University's School of Music with a Masters degree in 1976. He has also studied at Rutgers University.[1] He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, The New School, and SIM (School for Improvised Music).[1]

Helias has performed with a wide variety of musicians, first and foremost with trombonist Ray Anderson, with whom he led the ironic 1980s avant-funk band Slickaphonics, and a trio with Gerry Hemingway on drums, formed in the late 1970s, later named BassDrumBone, and continuing to play together. Besides Helias performed with the previous members of Ornette Colemans original band, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, and Ed Blackwell, just as with musicians affiliated with the AACM, such as Anthony Braxton, Anthony Davis, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Julius Hemphill. Furthermore, he played with Cecil Taylor, Marilyn Crispell, Simon Nabatov, and reed players Oliver Lake, Carlos Ward, Arthur Blythe, Don Byron, and Marty Ehrlich, whereas less usual were performances with Abbey Lincoln, Mose Allison, and J.B. Horns.

Since 1984 Mark Helias has released six recordings under his own name and further six albums leading the archetypal improvising trio Open Loose since 1996. The group comprises Helias on bass, first Ellery Eskelin, then Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone and Tom Rainey on drums.


  • 2010 - American Composers Orchestra Reading Commission,
  • 2007 - Chamber Music America Grant for New Works,
  • 2006 - Distinguished Alumnus Award Livingston College,
  • 1991 - Meet the Composer/Readers Digest Commission,
  • 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000 - Arts International Travel Grant,
  • 1988, 1994 - NYFA Grant in Music Composition,
  • 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1995 - NEA Grant in Jazz Performance,
  • 1981 - CAPS Grant in Music Composition,


As leader[edit]

  • Fictionary (GM Recordings, 1998)
  • Loopin' the Cool (Enja, 1995)
  • Attack the Future (Enja, 1992)
  • Desert Blue (Enja, 1989)
  • The Current Set (Enja, 1987)
  • Split Image (Enja, 1984)

With Open Loose

  • The Signal Maker (Intakt, 2015)
  • Explicit – Live at the Sunset (Marge, 2011)
  • Strange Unison (Radio Legs, 2008)
  • Atomic Clock (Radio Legs, 2006)
  • Verbs of Will (Radio Legs, 2004)
  • New School (Enja, 2001) Tony Malaby replaces Eskelin
  • Come Ahead Back... (E1/Koch Jazz, 1998) with Ellery Eskelin and Tom Rainey


With Sophia Domancich and Andrew Cyrille

  • Courtepointe - Live at the Sunside (Marge, 2012)

With Terrence McManus and Gerry Hemingway

  • Transcendental Numbers (NoBusiness, 2011)

With Michael Moore, Alex Maguire, and Han Bennink

  • White Widow (Ramboy, 2001)

With Mark Dresser

  • The Marks Brothers (De Werf, 2000)

With Daniele D'Agaro and U.T. Gandhi

  • Gentle Ben (Nota, 1999)

With Christy Doran, Bobby Previte, Gary Thomas

  • Corporate Art (JMT, 1991)

With Slickaphonics

  • Live (Teldec, 1988)
  • Check Your Head at the Door (Teldec, 1986)
  • Humatomic Energy (Blue Heron, 1985)
  • Modern Life (Enja, 1984)
  • Wow Bag (Enja, 1982)

With Ray Anderson and Gerry Hemingway a.k.a. BassDrumBone

  • The Other Parade (Clean Feed, 2011)
  • The Line Up (Clean Feed, 2006)
  • March of Dimes (Data, 2002)
  • (Hence the Reason) (Enja, 1997)
  • Wooferlo (Soul Note, 1989) first album as BassDrumBone
  • Cooked to Perfection (Auricle, 1999; Compilation of rec. from 1986, 1987, and 1996)
  • You Be (Minor Music, 1986)
  • Oahspe (Auricle, 1979)

As sideman[edit]

With Ralph Alessi and Modular Theatre

  • Open Season (RKM Music, 2008)

With Barry Altschul

With Ray Anderson

  • Wishbone (Justin Time, 1991)
  • Right Down Your Alley (Soul Note, 1984)

With the Ed Blackwell Project

  • Vol.1: What It Is? (Enja, 1993)
  • Vol.2: What It Be Like? (Enja, 1994)

With Jane Ira Bloom

  • Wingwalker (Outline, 2010)
  • Mental Weather (Outline, 2008)

With Anthony Braxton

With Marilyn Crispell

With Franco D'Andrea

  • Sei brani inediti (Red, 1991)
  • No Idea of Time (Red, 1984)
  • My One and Only Love (Red, 1983)

With Anthony Davis

With Benoît Delbecq Unit

  • Benoît Delbecq and Fred Hersch Double Trio - Fun House (Songlines, 2013)
  • Phonetics (Songlines, 2005)

With Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet

  • Ancient and Future Airs (Clean Feed, 2009)

With Marty Ehrlich

  • The Long View (Enja, 2002)
  • Dark Woods Ensemble – Sojourn (Tzadik, 1999)
  • Dark Woods Ensemble – Live Wood (Music & Arts, 1997)
  • Dark Woods Ensemble – Just Before the Dawn (New World, 1995)

With Ricardo Gallo's Tierra de Nadie

  • The Great Fine Line (Clean Feed, 2011)

With Dennis González NY Quartet

  • Dance of the Soothsayer’s Tongue (Live at Tonic) (Clean Feed, 2007)
  • NY Midnight Suite (Clean Feed, 2004)

With Jerome Harris

  • Algorithms (Minor, 1986)

With Gerry Hemingway

  • The Whimbler (Clean Feed, 2005)
  • Outerbridge Crossing (Sound Aspects, 1989)
  • Kwambe (Auricle, 1978)

With Peter Herborn

  • Traces of Trane (JMT, 1992)

With David Lopato

  • Inside Outside (Enemy, 1991)

With Joe Lovano

With Michael Moore

  • Bering (Ramboy, 1998)
  • Chicoutimi (Ramboy, 1994)
  • Home Game (Ramboy, 1992)

With Simon Nabatov

  • The Master and Margarita (Leo, 2001)
  • Tough Customer (Enja, 1993)

With Operazone (Bill Laswell-Alan Douglas-Karl Berger-Project)

With Jim Pepper

With Bobby Previte

With Enrico Rava

  • Flat Fleet (Philology, 2005)

With Dewey Redman

With Joe Rosenberg

  • Do What We Must Do (CIMP, 2002)

With Samo Salamon

  • Government Cheese (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2007; rec. 2004)
  • Two Hours (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2006; rec. 2004)

With Dave Schnitter

  • Glowing (Muse, 1981)


  1. ^ a b Sunderland, Celeste (2007-02-22). "Mark Helias". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-07-19. 

External links[edit]