Omac Records, 2001
#4 - artist website
Hot Swing? You might as well forcefully exclaim "Hot Damn!". With two terse words, you'd paraphrase this album in one piercing character sketch of casual yet brilliant insight.

You want details? Aw shucks. Take the super-imaginative fiddler O'Connor who played with Stephane Grappelli in 1979. Assign him Jon Burr on double-bass who accompanied Stephane over the last 10 years of his career. Rope in Frank Vignola on guitar, well-versed in the techniques of Joe Pass and Django Reinhardt and sideman for an illustrious line of luminaries including Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Manhattan Transfer and Lionel Hampton.

Record live in the South Street Community Theater of Morristown, New Jersey and insist on original tunes balanced by old chestnuts like the Duke's "Satin Doll", Grappelli's "Minor Swing" or Reinhardt's "Nuages". Then wrap the entire affair into an homage flag to the grand old man of the Jazz violin.

One will never know what infectious spice of inspiration pervaded the air the night of this performance. Whatever it was, the three musicians inhaled a potent dose to the very bottoms of their tappin' soles. This holds especially true for O'Connor's blazing originals. Perhaps it is because they suffer no inherent comparing -- of Grappelli's incomparable nonchalance vis-à-vis O'Connor's technically more astute but at times a bit too meticulously applied delivery.

Be that as it may, the opener "Swinging' on the 'ville" is a high-spirited romp perfectly suited to Mark's deep pockets filled with stylistic influences, superbly complemented by the banjo-flavored timbre of Vignola's guitar and Burr's wizard's fingers alternately plucking, popping and caressing his over-cello.

"Sweet Suzanne", another O'Connor pen effort, is a rip-snortin', fire-breathing exercise in flamboyant virtuosity on the part of all players engaged in hyper-swing mode. "In the Cluster Blues" reminisces about slower, more becoming times gone by, puttin' it on wistfully bluesy without the abysmal gravitas of the Delta, but a no less gripping intensity that has O'Connor lean into his strings like a tomcat in heat howls at the top of its really tiny lungs.

The overriding core note of this outing is one of charm imbued with fierce intelligence and technical brilliance. Hot Swing is a benign constellation in the musical heavens that brought together, as though predestined, three living and sweating cool-cat exponents of what's, umbrella-like, referred to as Jazz Gitan or Gipsy Swing.

Add the charge of a live performance, duly amplified by an audience hot-wired to each musician's receptive in-the-moment improv, and, Hot Damn!, this is one of those recommendations that has one err on the side of belligerence rather than subtle suggestion.

Get the drift already. I need to sack out in the hot chair and hit repeat, water cooling the last thing on my mind.