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Mark O'Leary: St Fin Barre's

Glenn Astarita By

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This trio outing, recorded live with no rehearsals at St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork City, Ireland, would signify a new chapter in Irish guitarist Mark O'Leary's rapidly expanding discography. However, the session took place in 2002 featuring Norwegian keyboardist Stale Storlokken performing on church organ and drummer/percussionist Stein Inge Braekhus. On a side note, the session offers an absolute contrast to the guitarist's striking, free-jazz/fusion 2008 FMR release with Storlokken and drummer John Herndon, Ellipse.

The cathedral acts as the fourth instrument due to the resonating acoustics, touched with echo and reverberation. Inspired by composers Olivier Messiaen and J.S. Bach, this date delves into a sanctified muse that is dappled with polytonal colors. For example, Storlokken's lower register organ parts, and Braekhus' middle-upper register tom-tom fills, generate a three-tiered perspective to O'Leary's dark-medium toned lines.

O'Leary once again uses volume control techniques as an emotion-inducer, where the preponderance of these works is engineered upon freely improvised story lines that are underscored by solemn motifs. In a sense, the music casts an ethereal edge, driven upon the trio's spiritually motivated, theme building exercises.

The band implements a string of subtleties amid its strategically placed dynamics. On "Antiphon," Braekhus institutes an off-kilter march progression, serving as the foundation for his partner's gently designed phrasings. Moreover, Braekhus weaves a gentle underpinning via his gentle use of brushes and soft cymbal hits.

One of the noticeably unique facets of this album pertains to the trio's nonconforming ways. As history might disclose, a good portion of this church organ jazz improvisation efforts traditionally rely on the organist's manner of rending heavy-handed, silvery chord progressions. That component does not come into play here. Thankfully, O'Leary successfully goes against the norm. At times, the overall scope is more about what they don't say as opposed to overcrowding the warmly concocted pastoral flows with beefy chordal patterns. It's a crossbreed of restraint and intent that yields the Holy Grail during this wondrously executed program.


Track Listing: Prologue; Evensong; Resurrection; Sanctuary; Trisagion; Antiphon; Epilogue.

Personnel: Mark O'Leary: guitar; Stale Storlokken: church organ; Stein Inge Braekhus: drums, percussion.

Title: St Fin Barre's | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Leo Records

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