Mark O'Connor Swings
Working in the vein of his hero and mentor, French jazz violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli, Mark O'Connor's final installment in his trilogy of hot swing trio releases, Live In New York, transcends tribute to become an engrossing and original record. The previous installments in the series, 2001's Hot Swing and 2003's In Full Swing, were both critical favorites – The Chicago Tribune spoke for most when they said, "O'Connor and his group have brought this infectious art form to a new height, both technically and musically." Live In New York features O'Connor on violin, Frank Vignola on guitar, and Jon Burr on bass; it is out January 13th, 2009 on OMAC Records.
"The group began as a specific tribute to Django Reinhardt and my teacher and old boss Stephane Grappelli, " explains O'Connor. "Then we built on that, much as 'gypsy jazz' grew through several stages of evolution, until we reached the broad range represented on Live In New York, encompassing influences of American culture in our ensemble playing, improvising, and composition."
These influences are most plain on "Fiddler Going Home", a piece written for departed jazz legend and frequent teacher at Mark O'Connor's string camps, Claude "Fiddler" Williams. O'Connor's long, plaintive notes are distinctly American, and conjure images of a long wagon train stretching into the sunset. His arrangement of the Gershwin standard "Fascinating Rhythm" is similarly inflected, adding a bit of the Old West to the Upper East Side. Original pieces like "Anniversary" and "Funky Swing" demonstrate the trio's willingness to push their sound into modern jazz and chamber music qualities.
There is plenty of Gypsy jazz-influenced playing on Live In New York, as well. Track after track finds O'Connor and his trio playing beautiful music as quickly as possible. "Tiger Rag" and O'Connor's tune "Gypsy Fantastic" are particular standouts in this regard.
From fiddling to classical to jazz, Mark O'Connor has proved time and again that he can master anything he turns his considerable musical skills toward. If the enthusiastic cheers at the end of every track on Live In New York are any indication, he's made an exceedingly enjoyable record in the process.
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