Mark O'Connor

Suspended Reality

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With a long gap between albums as a leader, saxophonist Mark O'Connor leads his group through a fairly casual set on Suspended Reality, building a layer of instrumentation around a focal set of sax lines. The sound is locked into a slight blues groove for most of the proceedings, O'Connor combining with piano and bass to provide a strong night club aesthetic. Just a hint of gospel creeps in when it's called for, just a bit of soul-jazz creeps in when it's called for, and the ensemble alternately takes turns soloing through quick sections and working as a full ensemble for long melodic stretches of collective play. Though the compositions are nearly Mingus-like with a focus on the rhythm and soul of a number rather than the attention to virtuosity that has taken over much of the newest generation of players, the shining aspect of the album is the sheer exuberance of playing that comes from all parties. Even when subdued, or restrained by the song at hand, the players have a certain level of joy embedded in the passages that comes out remarkably well.

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