Mark O'Leary: Levitation (2005)
Levitation is a session from late 2000 in which O'Leary is joined by trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and drummer Billy Hart. The three players are at an utterly equivalent level of ability and commitment; while there's plenty of guitar, drums, and trumpet, Levitation is ultimately the sound of listeningno recent recording gives a more palpable impression of alert, balanced attentiveness.
O'Leary's composition "Red Sand is a short gem of coiled beauty and thematic integrity that begins with a slow, almost-unison theme (O'Leary and Stanko articulating the notes individually, not slavishly) that gives an impression of slow, coalescing awakening. There's some gorgeous Stanko trumpet over O'Leary's volume swells as Hart's painterly drums suggest rather than dictate pulse and tempo. The slightly longer "Oblique has another insinuating theme that gives way to the three players all soloing simultaneously (O'Leary's guitar lines possessing an almost terrifyingly taut power). This can be the riskiest of strategies, as the polyphony has to the potential to be boringly cautious or meaninglessly anarchic. Here it's triumphant: the listener is free to fasten his attention to any one partsay, O'Brien's guitar clusters, or Stanko's searing lines, or Hart's autonomous cymbalsor to fuse the discrete voices together as a whole.
Stanko's the famous name here, but neither O'Leary nor Hart give an inch in this session and the result is some of Stanko's most engagedeven bitingplaying in recent years. Certainly, the mysterious, shadowy theme of O'Leary's "Astrakhan seems tailormade for Stanko's so-European urbanity, and his trumpet solo hereplayed alongside O'Leary's skewed bluesismsis deeply emotional and engaged. Hart is wildly impressive everywhereyet his so-subtle, pillowing cymbals that close out "Mystic are particularly worthy of mention.
One cannot fail to mention the shorter, group-composed improvisations like "Amnesiak, "Rite, and "A Walk in the Park With, which feel like inverted encapsulations of the longer pieces and provide a sort of breathing space in an album that might otherwise seem too lengthy.
Levitation is an altogether successful recording from an artist whose time has comeviva O'Leary!
Track Listing: Red Sand; Oblique; Mystic; Levitation; P.M.; A Theme I Used to Play; Giya; Astrakhan; Amnesiak; A Walk in the Park With; Rite; Warm; Getting There; Phase.
Personnel: Mark O'Leary: guitar; Tomasz Stanko: trumpet; Billy Hart: drums.
Record Label: Leo Records
Style: Modern Jazz