Mark O'Leary

Levitation

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This is the third trio album by Mark O'Leary that Leo Records released in 2005, all with different lineups. Despite coming out a few months after Self-Luminous and Chamber Trio, Levitation was actually recorded before them, on December 12, 2000. This session features trumpeter Tomasz Stanko (a regular associate of Terje Rypdal and ECM star) and drummer Billy Hart. The big difference between this album and the previous ones is that it consists mostly of compositions. O'Leary's tunes occupy most of the first 50 minutes of the disc, the remaining 20 featuring short group improvisations. The guitarist's writing chops borrow a lot from structured improvisation; he sketches melodies and structures that leave a lot of room for variations and personal input from his colleagues. The 16-minute title track and the seven-minute "Oblique" are the undisputed highlights in that regard, tapping into the soul of ECM jazz to push that sound further into American modern free. The pairing of O'Leary's elegant guitar tone and Stanko's graceful phrasing is a perfect match, truly something to please fans of Bill Frisell, Terje Rypdal, and the whole ECM roster. O'Leary knows how to be light when the time is right ("Giya") and how to drive a piece over the edge when things are getting too comfortable. Levitation may be a bit more conventional than the previous two records, but it is definitely the place to start with O'Leary's work and a good pick for fans of Stanko (whose following largely exceeds the guitarist's).

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