Friday, May 09, 2008

now playing: The Essential Mark O'Connor

The Essential Mark O'Connor

Bluegrass picker, hot swing jazz violinist, classical composer, innovative teacher --- however you look at the work of Mark O’Connor, no doubt listening to it is essential to understanding the evolution to twentieth century American music.
It also must have been a bit challenging to decide what to include and what to leave out on a package called The Essential mark O’Connor, although the fact that it’s bounded by O’Connor’s recording while he was with the Sony label explains why the focus is mainly on his classical work.

If you’re a committed folk music fan and think that means you won’t like the music here, though, think again. Likewise, if your listening preference is classical, prepare to be surprised and engaged. The second disc in the package is mainly orchestral work, while the first disc comprises trio work, chamber music, and other sorts of smaller and sometimes more informal collaborations. The jazz side comes into play in Tiger Rag, with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, and one of O’Connor’s best known compositions, Appalachia Waltz, appears as both a trio piece on the first disc and played by an orchestra on the second. Bluegrass and Texas music find a place with Bonaparte’s Retreat and Midnight on the Water, and though he’s known as a fiddler (or violinist, take your choice), you also get to hear O'Connor on guitar and on mandolin on several of the pieces on the first disc. Through it all, there’s his unmistakable touch and tone on his instruments, and his creative combinations of the power of the fixed forms of classical music with the free flowing ideas of bluegrass fiddling. If you already know O’Connor’s work, this is a fine way to hear some favorite pieces, and if you’re new to his music or curious about it. this is a good place to start.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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