199

Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York

Matt Cibula By

Sign in to view read count
Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio: Live in New York Damn, these bastards can play. Mark O'Connor, who was playing duets onstage with Stephane Grappelli every night when he was seventeen years old, has a truly formidable range of skills on jazz violin. He has assembled a crack band—Frank Vignola is mercurial and scary-fast on guitar, Jon Burr is everywhere he needs to be on bass. This live set from Merkin Hall, recorded in September 2004, is a very pretty document of what three people who are on the same wavelength can do together.

The up-tempo numbers pile changes and riffs on top of each other so quickly that it is dizzying. Their version of "Cherokee" is taken impossibly fast, and both O'Connor and Vignola get the chance to show off plenty. They do something similar with "Gypsy Fantastic," wailing away in a vaguely klezmeric setting; O'Connor constructs his solos the way Matisse constructed his portraits, and Vignola works his Django-magic in both support and lead.

But they're not speed kings either. "Funky Swing," an O'Connor original, actually lives up to its title, giving the whole band the chance to work in mid-tempo pointillist style. And long slow ballads like "Fiddler Going Home" are nicely played, if a bit stiff and boring.

Sadly, it's all rather bloodless. There's no audience noise at all during many of the songs, which is sad on a live album—if your crowd can control itself, you ain't doing your job, mister. And all this precision can get a little too technique-y, like on the "M & W Rag," which is so genteel that it should be wearing a white suit on Memorial Day and sip a mint julep. Not to say the songs aren't perfectly done... just that maybe perfection is a rather soggy ideal to shoot for.

Maybe I'm just annoyed at the pretentious liner notes by Robert L. Doerschuk, or at how O'Connor comes across when he brags in the liner notes about how he is a classical composer and how this is probably the band's last album together because O'Connor's in a different headspace now, and how he intentionally made "Anniversary" a technically difficult piece. Sure, it's pretty awesome; it takes us through about 54 moods and time signatures and voicings in eleven minutes, which is nice...but do we really need to be beaten over the head with this? Does he not trust us to get it?

However, as long as the solos keep coming as fast and furious as they do here, it doesn't really matter. It's hard, it's fast, it's country Romany jazz, it's fairly lovable if a little staid in places. Dig in... just don't read the liner notes.

Visit Mark O'Connor on the web.


Track Listing: Fascinating Rhythm; Cherokee; Anniversary; Ain't Misbehavin'; M & W Rag; Funky Swing; Fiddler Going Home; Gypsy Fantastic; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Tiger Rag.

Personnel: Mark O'Connor: violin; Frank Vignola: guitar; Jon Burr: bass.

Title: Live in New York | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: OMAC Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Lantern CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Neko" CD/LP/Track Review Neko
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 25, 2017
Read "The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings" CD/LP/Track Review The Fever: The Remastered Epic Recordings
by Doug Collette
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Night Music" CD/LP/Track Review Night Music
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "Duke Ellington's Treasury Shows - Vol. 21" CD/LP/Track Review Duke Ellington's Treasury Shows - Vol. 21
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 11, 2016
Read "Super Petite" CD/LP/Track Review Super Petite
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 13, 2016
Read "A Kenton Celebration" CD/LP/Track Review A Kenton Celebration
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 28, 2016

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.