released 2001 OMAC Records (dist. by Allegro and IODA)
Stephane Grappelli was Mark O'Connor's teacher for the Gypsy style of jazz violin, and included on the CD are the very hot guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist Jon Burr for a set of standards and originals.
"a direct disciple and former sideman of [Stephane] Grappelli…Mr. O'Connor makes Mr. Grappelli's long, swiveling lines even longer and smoother…" –New York Times
Hot Swing Liner notes:
"I simply sat back, playing it through a few times just for the sheer pleasure of drinking in this recorded live concert gem. Buoyed byt the energized guitar wizardry of Frank Vignola and the swinging intelligence of Jon Burr's bass, this CD has that fourth invisible element goading it on…adrenaline rush." – Johnny Frigo, Jazz Violinist
"The songs are played so beautifully, I thought at times I was actually listening to Grappelli, what a tribute. Really swing, a toe taper and finger snapper! In The Cluster Blues – If I didn't know better, I'd swear Mark had the Blues…You have to move on this one, no way can you sit this one out!" – Claude "Fiddler Williams, Jazz Violinist
I have a problem. I cannot stop listening to the mood
enhancing, deeply pleasing and totally irresistible new "Hot Swing!" by Mark
O'Connor. And now that Mark has asked me to contribute a few sentences of
liner notes, I have the happy excuse to hear it yet again. But as the first
notes of "Swingin' on the 'Ville" come out of the speakers and I start to
peck away on my laptop, an odd feeling creeps in to the usual mix of hijinks
and jubilance that this music brings.
What can I, a classically trained violinist who plays Bach
concertos, Brahms sonatas, and late Beethoven string quartets for a living,
have to say about Mark's world of fiddling?
The question was of little concern to me when Mark and first met
on the stage of Carnegie Hall several years ago. We were both involved in a
benefit concert to help youngsters and their violin program in the East
Harlem elementary schools. Since then, the two of us have become good
friends and have attended each other's concerts; but the question still
remains: What do Mark and I, toe tapping fiddler and long haired violinist,
have in common?
The answer begins to form quickly.
Although listening to Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt
was never part of my required music school curriculum, I listened to them
anyway. The allure of their artistry was simply too compelling. Aside from
the pleasure that Grappelli and Reinhardt gave, I must have intuitively
grasped a kernel of truth, an essential element that their playing had and
mine aspired to.
A musician, any and every kind, must create magic in that
mysterious interchange between performer and listener. And that is exactly
what Mark and his fellow wizards, Frank Vignola, guitarist, and Jon Burr,
bassist, do again and again in this tribute to Grappelli's music. The magic
comes in so many ways, for these are musicians who can race your heart with
virtuosity, tickle your brain with their inventiveness, and get your toes
moving frenetically when they swing. And how they feel the music!
After Mark liltingly serves up the first statement of "In the
Cluster Blues," Frank's guitar continues ruminatively and then with
spellbinding intensity, followed by Jon's winsomely atmospheric bass tugging
(or rather plucking) at the heart strings. Then comes the most remarkable
of violin solos. Mark enters like a wolf howling plaintively at the moon
and proceeds to move up and down the fiddle at will, drawing out a wealth of
oh-so-blue feeling. When the theme returns for one last time, its sad and
modest simplicity are memorable.
It is important to acknowledge that Mark fell under Stephane
Grappelli's spell at the age of thirteen, was privileged to be mentored and
taught by him at age seventeen, and played his first professional job in
Carnegie Hall accompanying Stephane on guitar. After Grappelli's death in
1997, it was only natural that Mark would be asked and would want to pay
tribute to his great mentor from time to time.
I hear Mark as a kind of two-headed violinist on these
selections. Clearly, Grappelli's style and influence are everywhere
evident, and yet Mark's playing bears the imprint of his own very personal
and powerful artistry. The same can be said of Frank Vignola and Jon Burr
who also tip their hats lovingly to both Grappelli and Reinhardt. Jon
toured and recorded with Grappelli, and Frank as a budding young guitarist
spent many hours listening to Reinhardt's music. Yet they are brilliant
artists in their own right who have embraced the ideas of their mentors and
reshaped them in a new and distinctive way. With so much in common, there
is a certain inevitability about this threesome coming together.
A few days ago while driving in the car with several gifted
young classical violinists already embarked on careers, I played the second
cut on "Hot Swing!" for them, "Nuages," to see what kind of reaction it
would stir up. As Mark spun out the long and sultry solo of Reinhardt's
most celebrated composition, the one I had hard Django himself play so often
on record, conversation in the back seat quickly ceased. Mark's deeply
lyrical playing and the sheer poetry of his whimsical little flights of
fancy hypnotized my young colleagues.
Whatever differences exist between Mark's violin world and mine,
there seems to be only three kinds of music we have in common – good, bad,
and every once in a rare while, an inspirational one such as Mark
But you must please excuse me if these liner notes stop abruptly
here. I must listen to this "Hot Swing!" one more time.
First violinist, Guarneri String Quartet
Dec. 21, 2000