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Album review: Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio

January 20, 2009 |  3:06 pm

Mark_connor240_ The amazing thing about fiddler-composer Mark O’Connor is that he'd be equally at home on stage playing country with George Jones, jazz with Wynton Marsalis or classical music with Itzhak Perlman. For this third outing with guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist Jon Burr, O'Connor's starting point is the fleet-fingered swing of his mentor, French violinist Stéphane Grappelli, and the great Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

The session opens with a couple of jazz-pop standards, George Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm" and Ray Noble's "Cherokee," before moving on to O'Connor's contiguous suite "Anniversary," an 11-minute journey rooted in the blues and flowing seamlessly through swing, free-form jazz and traditional folk.

His "M & W Rag" is a thoroughly enchanting bounce in the style of Scott Joplin, and "Fiddler Going Home" is an ode to one of O'Connor's heroes, Claude "Fiddler" Williams.

Any breath the listener might have left after that is quickly taken away by the breakneck "Gypsy Fantastic," and the hourlong set, recorded in 2004, wraps with a positively dazzling run through another American classic, "Tiger Rag."

O'Connor's facility as a composer allows him to craft artfully constructed statements rather than overwhelming listeners with his remarkable technique, and his empathy with his skilled cohorts are the sure signs of a consummate musician.

-- Randy Lewis

Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio
"Live in New York"
Omac Records
Three and a half stars