O’Connor in a Haystack at the Jazz Record Mart

Supremely Gifted Musical Sister and her husband, also Supremely Musically Gifted, are in town for a few days, and we’ve had a great time.  One to-do on their Chicago list was a trip to Jazz Record Mart – a little bit of heaven for enthusiasts like my brother-in-law.  Their hotel is within easy walking distance of the jazz Mecca, so we went over first thing yesterday morning.  The people at the store are friendly, and the decor is no-frills.  Posters of jazz legends line the walls, but they haven’t been touched in a decade or more and the patrons are there to peruse not the ambiance, but row after row and box after box of new and used CDs and vinyl.

I know nothing about jazz.  But since I was shopping in a jazz store with someone who knows a whole lot, I took the opportunity to ask about some jazz violin, which I’ve been wanting to get a taste of.  Of course I know the instrument has a rich place in jazz; yesterday my brother-in-law steered me to Mark O’Connor, for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost he’s a tremendous violinist.  O’Connor plays with a bass and a guitar in a group called the Hot Swing Trio; the album I ended up with is simply titled Live in New York. I’m listening to it now for the first time, and this is undoubtedly my longest exposure to jazz style fiddling.  My brother-in-law told me that it’s “Gypsy Jazz.”

I am enjoying the CD quite a bit.  The first track is a peppy tune called Fascinating Rhythm.  The track I’m listening to now is over 11 minutes long – a little symphony of sorts called Anniversary – and I’m enjoying the dynamic range and the themes around which the trio embellishes improvisationally.  The violin is definitely the “voice” of the trio, with the bass and guitar providing backup.    O’Connor’s technique and sound on the violin are top-notch and distinctive.

The other reason he thought of O’Connor is that he knows I’m studying via the Suzuki method, and recently the violinist made some extremely loud and public disparaging remarks about the Method.  Apparently O’Connor really takes Suzuki to task in a written tirade of some sort that has created a bit of a firestorm.  My brother-in-law told me to listen to the CD and then to go out and read O’Connor’s tirade and learn about the controversy.

I’ve just cracked the liner notes, and am tickled to discover that they are extremely informative and tell the story of O’Connor and a little bit of the history of Gypsy Jazz as well.  So finishing the liner notes primer and a web-search about this big Suzuki dust-up are in my near future – more to come on Mark O’Connor soon.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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