Thirty-Year Retrospective

Mark O'Connor

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Thirty-Year Retrospective Review

by Robert L. Doerschuk

The concept is a little self-celebratory, but then again there is plenty to celebrate in this astonishing double-CD package. Recorded live in the recently completed concert hall at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, these trio and quartet performances combine pristine sonic quality with spirited, technically precise execution. No one track stands out from the others, yet each is a gem in its own right. Every arranged unison or harmonized passage is deftly played, without so much as a single clinker or imprecise articulation, at every tempo. On looser ballads, such as "Midnight Interlude," the group accompanies Mark O'Connor's meticulously phrased line with uncanny empathy. The repertoire is drawn, as the title suggests, from throughout O'Connor's career, which spills across all kinds of boundaries, from bluegrass through "hot" jazz, classical, and permutations too complex to label at all. None of this throws any of these players: Chris Thile, best known for his work with Nickel Creek, and session heavyweights Bryan Sutton and Byron House breeze over every challenge like stones skimming across a pond. In the end, Thirty-Year Retrospective achieves even more than might be expected; not just a chronological milestone, it takes its place among the very best of O'Connor's catalog, which is itself among the most imposing in contemporary instrumental music.

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