Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mark O'Connor Quintet: Suspended Reality

OA2 Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Suspended Reality

Mark O’Connor, who plays alto and tenor sax, in addition to composing and teaching, is one of the Chicago jazz scene's excellent musicians. This Texas-born artist earned a bachelor of arts degree from the jazz-oriented University of North Texas; he followed that with a master's from Eastern Illinois University, where he's currently pursuing a doctorate.

Suspended Reality features O’Connor’s basic quartet — his sax, backed by piano, bass and drums — with the addition of trumpeter Victor Garcia. They produce an excellent menu of straight-ahead jazz: no tricks or complexities, just the kind of swinging music that has been predominant around Chicago for decades.

O'Connor composed and arranged all but one of the tunes; the exception is a poignant rendition of the beautiful old standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square," which features some truly gorgeous sax work.

O’Connor’s compositions include ballads, mid-tempo finger-snappers, old-time blues and freeway flag-wavers. "Song for Betony" (his wife) is particularly moving; "The Sound of Joy" is a take on the kind of blues so often heard during the early jazz years; and "Kite Flying" and "Quiet Snow" are very nice "mood" tunes.

I hope that one day O’Connor will decide to share his music with live audiences outside Chicago and its suburbs; until then, we’ll have to make do with his albums.

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