When Michael O'Neill isn't touring with George Benson he does his thing and Touch the Past is his thing. For this Yamaha-sponsored guitarist, the recording is a compliment to the so-called Blue Note era of jazz. His radio-friendly songs, however, don't seem to dwell much in the past, and are very much in the here and now, as this is certainly not a Blue Note production; it's O'Neill through and through.
O'Neill is a wise and mature performer who knows when and how to lead, while always being a paradigmatic team player. He's artistically comfortable with himself. He's also unafraid of melodic beauty, economy of expression, and harmonic simplicity. Perhaps the title cut illustrates these points as well as any other in the CD. Supported by Walt Fowler on flugelhorn, "Touch the Past" features the leader, beginning on a somewhat nostalgic note, as an intro, and moving to a relaxed swing that allows Fowler and O'Neill to massage and caress the pentagram with their respectively welcoming and handsome tones.
In fact, a relaxed, sweetalbeit not cloying, and smooth-yet-textural enough to avoid being just slipperyswing characterizes the entire production. "Blue Chill," with the kissing, kissable, juicy, sensuous, bluesy voice of Lynee Fiddmont, begins deep in the blues, as an intro to the finger snapping scat and O'Neill's delicious solo, followed by an equally delectable piano turn by Chris Ho, while the guitarist's comping is par for the course.
"Just for the Moment" is a well-written ballad, where the pairing of guitar and tenor sax romances the senses, playfully and effectively. O'Neill chose his partners for this date very well, and seems to have written the material taking them into account. Aside from anything else of worth showcased in this release, the guitarist has excellent technique and ideas, a convivial sound and the knowledge to play what the music calls for, in the manner that should be played.
If You Dare; Smooth Sailin; Just for the Moment; Blue Chill; Indiansong; Get on Up; Touch the Past; Constant Seabreeze; Playa Bonita.
Michael O'Neill: guitars, keyboards; Chris Ho: piano; Matt Van Benshoten: bass; Dave Rennick: drums; Larry Williams: tenor sax (3); Lynee Fiddmont: vocal (4); Walt Fowler: flugelhorn (7).
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.
African Jazz Beyond Jazz Big Band Blues Brazilian Classical Dixieland / New Orleans / Swing Electronica Free Improv / Avant-Garde Fringes of Jazz Funk / Groove Fusion / Progressive Rock Jam Band Latin Modern Jazz R&B / Soul Straight-ahead (Bop, Hard bop, Cool) Vocal