Mark O'Connor

Jam Session

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Call this one truth in advertising: as the title says, these nine tracks are what happens when superior acoustic string musicians get together and let it rip. Mark O'Connor (violin), Chris Thile (mandolin), Frank Vignola and Bryan Sutton (guitars), and John Burr and Byron House (basses) are all virtuosos, and each long ago mastered the ability to drop into any musical situation and contribute something innovative and dazzling. The tracks actually don't stem from one hyper-productive session, but rather from four different gigs spanning 2000-2004. Nor do each of the musicians play on every track: the lightning-speed opener, "Granny White Special," for example, is a vehicle for the dynamic interplay of Thile and O'Connor, with Sutton and House more than ably fleshing it out, while the Django-esque "Pickles on the Elbow" is a trio recording featuring O'Connor, Vignola, and Burr. Django Reinhardt looms largely over much of the disc; in fact, the closing track, "Minor Swing," is a classic from the Reinhardt-St├ęphane Grappelli catalog, and the quintet that takes it on here (all of them minus House) kicks it into high gear early and keeps it there. The only real complaint has nothing to do with the high level of musicality, but instead the sound quality: As noted, the collection was recorded at different venues with different room acoustics, but there is no effort made to achieve a sonic consistency, which results in noticeably jarring transitions between songs.

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