Gordon Grdina/Mark Helias: No Difference (2013)
When these individuals get comfortable together, the results are striking. At times, they show tremendous control and patience in shaping the music ("The Throes"), but they're just as likely to allow a sense of abandon to overtake the proceedings ("Leisure Park"). They know how to color within the lines, but they often have more fun doing just the opposite; "Leisure Park" and "Fierce Point," a whacked-out fun house scene with nightmarish qualities, are the proof. Malaby, more often than not, is the pot-stirrer in these exploratory episodes, egging everybody else on and skronking in his inimitable fashion. "Visceral Voices," the closing track on the album, finally rectifies the imbalance between control and chaos. Loewen's love of Blackwell comes through in his playing, as he provides a brilliantly jittery swing foundation, Grdina plays the brooding artist, Helias bounces away at the bottom, and Malaby's dark and dangerous saxophone work steals the show. The promise of this four-way partnership is fulfilled in these seven-and-a-half minutes.
The remaining tracks, which make up more than half the album, are duo creations that highlight the rapport between Grdina and Helias. Arabian flavors and a sense of mystery come through on "Hope In Being" and "Fast Times," the heart wins out on "Nayeli Joon," and "Limbo" sits right where its title suggests. "Cluster," the oddest of them all, goes down into the depths, where darkness, self-doubt and uncertainty prevail. The sound of tortured souls seems to cry out from nowhere here.
Grdina and Helias share a belief in the power of expression through sound, whether simple or complex, and they're not alone. Malaby and Loewen are two like-minded souls who also clearly subscribe to that tenet. These four, as individuals and a team, are afraid of nothing and open to everything.
Track Listing: Hope In Being; Limbo; The Throes; Leisure Park; Fast Times; Nayeli Joon; Cluster; Fierce Point; Visceral Voices.
Personnel: Gordon Grdina: oud, guitar, bowed guitar; Mark Helias: bass; Kenton Loewen: drums; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone.
Record Label: Songlines Recordings
Style: Modern Jazz