Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio: Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio – In Full Swing

Music Reviews Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio
Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio: Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio – In Full Swing

Mark O’Connor—fiddler or violinist? I guess it depends on the context, and that’s not the knock it might seem to be. Like precious few musicians, O’Connor works more than one side of the street: he started in country and bluegrass and has parallel (though sometimes overlapping) careers in jazz and classical. His approach is eclectic and his technique astounding, though that’s not always enough to make exemplary music. It takes feel, and O’Connor has plenty to go ‘round.

His Hot Swing Trio is a group dedicated to the small-band swing tradition established in the 1930s by Django Reinhardt’s Quintet of the Hot Club Of France featuring the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli (1908-1997). The warm, Gallic tone and energetic, thoroughly elegant swing of Grappelli is a major inspiration to O’Connor, and he does the old master proud by injecting a modern energy and audaciousness into the old war horses performed here. “Limehouse Blues” and “As Time Goes By” are prosaic selections, but the former is more than redeemed by the manic drive and inventiveness O’Connor and guitarist Frank Vignola bring to the table, and singer Jane Monheit essays the latter with just the right touch of old-school torch-singer melodrama. (Alas, on a couple of other songs, Monheit swims perilously close to the Isle of La Streisand.) The only downside to this rather excellent platter is some of the performances come off a tad TOO clean—a bit on the glossy side, with the slick cleanness that afflicts some jazzgrass/new-acoustic-music fusions. But that’s only a minor caveat—if you’re a fan of hot violin playing and/or acoustic swing, it doesn’t get much better than In Full Swing.

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