|O’Connor Band with Mark O’Connor — Coming Home (August 5, 2016)|
O’Connor Band with Mark O’Connor — Coming Home (August 5, 2016)♦» Produkt bohaté americké lidové tradice (kde se písně převádějí z generace na generaci poslechem), jakož i klasické hudby. Tvůrčí cesty Mark O’Connora pramenily u nohou dvojice hudebních gigantů. První z nich byl lidový houslista a inovátor, který otevřel moderní éru americké houslové školy: Benny Thomasson; druhý — francouzský jazzový houslista, považován za jednoho z největších improvizátorů v historii houslí, Stéphane Grappelli. Podél cesty mezi těmito nádhernými hudebními extrémy, Mark O’Connor vstřebává nabyté znalosti a vliv mnoha hudebních stylů a žánrů, které má dokonale nastudované. Nyní, ve věku 54 tyto vlivy tvaruje do tzv. ‘new acoustic’, nové americké klasické hudby a vizí exkluzivní ‘American school of string playing’. Překročil tolik různých hranic, že jeho styl musí být a je čistě osobní. An astonishingly versatile American violinist and composer who has had exceptional success melding various genres of music.
♦» “The “New American School of String Playing”, of which the O’Connor Method is a part, promotes a future in which young musicians around the world socialize in more creative, self–guided, and impromptu ways: jamming, listening together, forming bands, sharing ideas, improvising, composing, playing multiple instruments, and so forth. The diverse music presented in the O’Connor Method requires students to refine the skills necessary to realize this future.” — Mark O’Connor (From the Foreword to Book V)
Born: August 5, 1961, Seattle, Washington, USA
Instruments: Violin, fiddle, mandolin, mandola, guitar
Album release: August 5, 2016
Record Label: Rounder/Concord Music Group
01 Always Do 3:13
02 Coming Home 3:23
03 I Haven’t Said I Love You in a While 3:53
04 Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man? 3:02
05 What Have I Been Saying? 3:48
06 Jerusalem Ridge 3:40
07 The Sweet Ones 3:10
08 Blacktop Boy 3:42
09 You Too 3:44
10 Fishers Hornpipe 3:42
11 Old Black Creek 3:39
12 Fiddler Going Home 5:00
» Jim Shirey 1
» Forrest O’Connor 2, 3, 5, 9
» Mae Carver 4
» Bill Monroe 6
» Kate Lee / Jon Weisberger 7
» Pat Alger / Kate Lee 8, 11
» Traditional 10
» Mark O’Connor 12
Play: O’Connor Band / Mark O’Connor
♦» Multi Grammy and CMA Award–winning fiddler and composer Mark O’Connor returns to progressive bluegrass and country music with the O’Connor Band and their debut album, Coming Home. O’Connor embarked on a prolific career as an American Classical music composer, hot swing violinist and legendary bluegrass fiddler collaborating with the likes of Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, James Taylor, Wynton Marsalis and Yo–Yo Ma. The New York Times has described O’Connor s career as ‘one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music.’ In the O’Connor Band, Mark is joined by his wife Maggie (MA, Peabody Institute of Music) on violin and harmony vocals, his son Forrest (former Tennessee State Mandolin Champion) on mandolin and lead vocals, and Forrest s fiancée, Kate Lee (frequent performer on the CMA Awards), on violin and lead vocals. Coming Home is a perfect balance of contemporary songcraft by Forrest and Kate and intricate instrumentals featuring the band s triple fiddle lineup. The O’Connor Band is rounded out by national flatpick champion Joe Smart on guitar and University of Miami DMA candidate Geoff Saunders on bass and banjo. Co–producer and Grammy–winner Gregg Field says, ‘At the heart of any album is the songwriting. Kate and Forrest have seductively crafted alluring stories and colorful characters in their songs, some biographical and each one sounding like a new standard.’
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming; Score: ****
♦» If there’s a gold standard for fiddling in American music, it’s Mark O’Connor, an artist who has earned his stripes as one of the finest instrumentalists in bluegrass, country, jazz, and classical. Given how far he’s pushed the boundaries of his music and his instrument, it’s just a bit surprising that he’s opted to dip his toes into one of the most traditional formats in bluegrass, the family band, but you can’t argue much with the results. Released in 2016, Coming Home is the first album from the O’Connor Band, which along with Mark features his wife Maggie O’Connor on violin, his son Forrest O’Connor on mandolin and vocals, and his daughter–in–law Kate Lee on violin and vocals. (Friends of the family Joe Smart on guitar and Geoff Saunders on bass fill out the arrangements.) While three fiddlers might seem like overkill, this group manages to merge them seamlessly, sounding like a tiny orchestra on “Fishers Hornpipe,” weaving gracefully through the title track, and bringing their voices together in sweet sorrow on “Fiddler Going Home.” The guitar and mandolin lend the melodies a fine rhythmic counterpoint, and the group’s harmonies are excellent. Mark O’Connor is clearly the star of this show, but his bandmates are more than capable, and Forrest O’Connor and Kate Lee are fine lead vocalists who season the group’s instrumental blend with impressive skill. While some of Lee’s songwriting leans a bit hard on pop–country tropes, the musicians more than compensate, and the material moves back and forth between traditionalism and contemporary bluegrass styles with easy authority. Coming Home is a splendid set of modern–day bluegrass with deep Appalachian soul, and proof that there’s a lot of talent in the O’Connor household besides the guy with the hat.
♦ Pat Alger Composer
♦ Paul Blakemore Mastering
♦ Neal Cappellino Engineer
♦ Mae Carver Composer
♦ Gregg Field Mixing, Percussion, Producer
♦ Jimmy Hole Package Design
♦ Kate Lee Composer, Fiddle, Group Member, Violin, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
♦ Owen Lewis Assistant
♦ Bill Monroe Composer
♦ Forrest O’Connor Composer, Mandolin, Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
♦ Maggie O’Connor Fiddle, Group Member, Violin, Vocals (Background)
♦ Mark O’Connor Arranger, Composer, Featured Artist, Group Member, Mixing, Producer, Violin, Vocals (Background)
♦ John David Pittman Photography
♦ Seth Presant Assistant Engineer
♦ Geoff Saunders Banjo, Bass, Double Bass, Group Member, Vocals (Background)
♦ Jim Shirey Composer
♦ Joe Smart Group Member, Guitar, Vocals (Background)
♦ Traditional Composer
♦ Jorge Velasco Assistant Engineer
♦ Jon Weisberger Composer
♦» It’s 8:40 p.m. on a Friday evening, five minutes before the O’Connor Band is slated to make their Grand Ole Opry debut. Fiddle legend Mark O’Connor is standing just offstage, wearing his trademark Fedora hat, smiling at the sight of the crowd, the lights, and his old friends in the Opry house band.
♦» “It’s amazing to come full circle and return here,” says O’Connor. “I first performed on this stage when I was 12. Even though it was more than 40 years ago, I’ll always vividly remember Roy Acuff introducing me to the crowd. But this performance might be even more special, because I get to have my family out there on stage with me.”
♦» As if on cue, Mark’s son, Forrest, walks up in earnest.
♦» “Dad, we may have a slight problem,” says the younger O’Connor, wielding a mandolin in his left hand and a pick in his right. “I just realized that both our songs are in [the key of] E. Is that okay, or do we need to swap one of them out?”
♦» “Whoops,” says Mark. “Well, at this point, let’s stick with what we decided, because I think the songs are different enough. I bet the audience will love ‘em!”
♦» Within minutes, the full six–piece O’Connor Band is out on stage, launching into a cover of the old Osborne Brothers hit, “Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?” Forrest’s fiancée, Kate Lee (vocals, fiddle), is singing lead, and Mark’s wife, Maggie (vocals, fiddle), is chopping rhythm on the fiddle hard enough that, if you weren’t looking, you might think she was playing a snare drum. Joe Smart (guitar) and Geoff Saunders (bass) are also holding down a tight groove despite the breakneck pace. After a virtuosic vocal performance from Kate and blistering solos from father and son O’Connor, the song ends abruptly, and the audience erupts in what seems to be the loudest applause of the entire evening.
♦» Next, the band plays “Coming Home,” a song penned by Forrest while out on the road with his dad during one of their “Appalachian Christmas” tours a couple years prior. It’s an uptempo, feel–good, almost anthemic tune about coming home to a loved one after months of travel. All the band members, including Mark, join in on harmony vocals for the last two choruses, and the audience eats it up.
♦» And just like that, the set is over. The O’Connors exit stage right and shake hands with some of the other performers and staff before heading back to the dressing room.
♦» “I think it’s bedtime,” says Maggie as she puts her fiddle in her case. “We need to be on the road at like 5 a.m. because we have two shows at Dollywood tomorrow afternoon!”
♦» Family bands obviously have significant historical precedent, especially in bluegrass and country music (think The Carter Family, The Stonemans, The Whites, even The Band Perry), but it’s rare to find one this versatile, and with such a diverse background and story.
♦» Mark himself has the name that fans of many different musical styles will immediately recognize. A former child prodigy and national champion on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, Mark has won his share of Grammys and CMA Awards, and has collaborated with a dizzying array of iconic artists, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Randy Travis, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, and Yo–Yo Ma. He has also written numerous violin concertos, which he has performed with hundreds of major symphony orchestras around the world. In addition to performing, he has authored a groundbreaking and now best–selling instructional method for strings, The O’Connor Method. Hailed by The New York Times as having followed “one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music,” O’Connor’s career has been unique and inspirational.
♦» “I’ve recorded on at least 500 albums,” says O’Connor, “but I have to say, there are very few, if any, that I’ve been as proud of as this O’Connor Band album. With the help of Grammy winners Gregg Field [co–producer] and Neal Cappellino [chief engineer], we’re bridging the gap between progressive bluegrass, country, and indie folk and yet creating something that is also very commercially viable.”
♦» Throughout the 12–song album, which will be released August 5, 2016 on Rounder Records (the first label Mark signed with at age 12), the O’Connor Band draws upon a deep well of talent and tradition to make music whose sonic and emotional appeal transcends time and genre, demonstrating an effortless rapport that underlines the group’s family roots as well as its prestigious collective pedigree.
♦» The title of the record apparently didn’t require much deliberation: Coming Home, named after Forrest’s song, was the obvious choice, as it reflects the arc of his dad’s career and the meaning of this album so aptly.
♦» Forrest himself waited a long time before deciding to follow his father’s footsteps. Growing up in Nashville and Montana, he dabbled in guitar and mandolin until enrolling at Harvard University, where, despite the heavy academic workload, he managed to squeeze in time to practice mandolin late nights in the basement of his dorm building. After graduating summa cum laude and foregoing an invitation to attend Harvard Business School, Forrest co–founded and worked at a video tech startup, Concert Window, before deciding to pursue music as a career in early 2014. Within two months of moving from Boston back to his hometown of Nashville, he won the Tennessee State Mandolin Championship and began touring full–time with O’Connor Band co–lead singer and fiancée, Kate Lee.
♦» “I’m what you might call a late bloomer,” Forrest says with a laugh. “But I was around so much music growing up that this way of life feels very natural to me. And our album has to be what, number 50 or something that my dad’s released as a featured artist? It’s my first full album, but I don’t think it will sound like it. This band is a natural extension of what I have always loved about music and music–making. It’s coming along at a time when we can combine our different sensibilities to create something that will hopefully resonate with the bluegrass and country audiences and beyond.”
♦» Two of Forrest’s original songs on the album, “What Have I Been Saying?” and “I Haven’t Said I Love You In A While”, are probably not what one would consider straight–ahead bluegrass. Both are slow–to mid–tempo duets with Kate, and they feature winding, occasionally chromatic melodies, adventurous chord progressions, and lush string textures. Although very personal, both songs draw upon the songcraft of the top country writers of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which is refreshing in this acoustic context.
♦» “It’s a pretty cool thing to contribute to the wonderful musical traditions of bluegrass and country while also trying to build on it,” Kate adds. “I grew up listening to Mark and being inspired by his music, long before I ever knew that he had a son that I’d be engaged to. It turns out that Forrest and I have similar writing sensibilities, which is one of the reasons we hit it off so well after we met.”
♦» The chemistry Kate and Forrest have developed together over the last couple years as vocalists and writers is evident both onstage and on the new recording. Kate’s journey to this point, however, is perhaps more similar to Mark’s than Forrest’s. Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Kate became the leader of her own band, Kate Lee & No Strings Attached, at age 12, and she won several state and regional songwriting contests in the ensuing years. Soon after moving to Nashville to study commercial violin performance at Belmont University, she began performing behind a number of the biggest names in country music, including Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, Vince Gill, Jennifer Nettles, and Rascal Flatts. She also formed an unlikely but highly productive songwriting partnership with Pat Alger (Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Nanci Griffith), and a couple of their songs appear on the O’Connor Band album.
♦» “The songs Kate and Pat wrote — especially ‘Blacktop Boy’ — are so accessible,” says Maggie. “That one in particular sounds like a radio single to me, and Kate’s singing on it is so powerful. But honestly, it’s hard to choose favorites on this album. The music is diverse yet so cohesive. I think that’s because we have such a good camaraderie. Of course, having a band with two couples is unique, but in some ways our very different backgrounds contribute to the cohesion. It’s like we are each inspired by each other’s journeys to this point because, in spite of being a family, we all followed different paths to get here.”
♦» Maggie, who sings both lead and background vocals in addition to playing violin for the O’Connor Band, is the only core member of the band with a higher academic degree, having earned a Master of Music in violin performance from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. After growing up playing and singing country, bluegrass, and jazz with her own family band in a small town outside Atlanta, GA, she underwent years of intense Russian School classical violin training, but she never lost her yearning to play American styles. In 2014, while still considering pursuing an orchestral career, she reached out to Mark — whom she had never met — about setting up a fiddle lesson during a trip to New York City, where Mark was living at the time.
♦» “I’ll put it this way: That lesson changed a few things!” exclaims Maggie.
♦» Within weeks, Maggie began performing with Mark both domestically and abroad, including with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and at the Leopold Auer Academia in Hungary and the Berlin Konzerthaus in Germany. But perhaps no performance meant as much as one they played November of that year — at their own wedding.
♦» Maggie’s ability to blend tonally with her husband is startling; indeed, it literally sounds like they are one violinist sometimes. Fortunately, given Mark’s command as an arranger, the two are able to harness the beauty of their blend often, especially on Mark’s versions of the driving Bill Monroe classic, “Jerusalem Ridge” and the bouncing, energetic traditional tune, “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” as well as in his majestic original composition, “Fiddler Going Home.” All three of these songs appear on Coming Home.
♦» “Playing with Maggie is so effortless and invigorating,” says Mark. “I’m not just saying this because she’s my wife — I’ve really never enjoyed playing with another violinist this much. But honestly, that’s how it is with Forrest and Kate as well. I’ve played with many of the top female singers in my time, and there are really none better than Kate — she is just that good. And Joe and Geoff have to be two of the best sidemen on the bluegrass scene today. Who knows? Maybe they’re related to us too somehow.”
♦» Joe, a former National Flatpick Guitar Champion, and Geoff, a DMA candidate in Bass Performance from the University of Miami, grew up listening to Mark’s music, so perhaps the chemistry with them should come as no surprise.
♦» “Joe’s playing on Coming Home has to be one of the best bluegrass guitar performances of the year,” Mark says. “And our co–producer, Gregg Field, praised Geoff as having the best bass sound he’d ever gotten on record. Pretty amazing stuff for players who haven’t been on the scene that long yet!”
♦» The truth is that all six musicians possess impressive multi–instrumental abilities that allow the group to explore a wide range of musical configurations. The three–violin lineup is unique amongst contemporary ensembles. The virtuosic playing competes with any bluegrass band out there. The songs (described as “modern–day classics” by Field) hold their own with anything you’ll hear on a Friday or Saturday night at The Bluebird Café in Nashville. Coming Home may be one of the most impressive debut albums released by any bluegrass band in a long time.
♦» Back at the Opry, Mark smiles and shakes his head after walking offstage.
♦» “That might have been the fastest we’ve ever played Ruby,” he laughs. “Whew! I forgot how much I loved playing here. It definitely feels like I’m coming home.”
♦» Violin Book IV of The O’Connor Method — A New American School of String Playing. The hallmarks of the American school and this method are rich musical literature, cultural diversity, historical relevance, stylistic variety, and inherent groundwork for creativity through individual expression and improvisation. The Method features music that spans the 400 years of the violin’s existence in the western hemisphere. Additionally, the Method and its materials nurture solo and duet playing, orchestra and small ensemble participation, and band–leading. The carefully planned sequence of musical pieces in the preceding books in the series provides a firm foundation for the technical, theoretical, artistic, and creative growth of students of the violin. The early books established foundational musical languages by way of four major traditional styles — hoedown, blues, spiritual, and ragtime.
♦» Book IV continues with the same carefully planned sequence of increased difficulty, bringing students to playing levels of high–intermediate and low–advanced, over the course of the 22 American classics included in the book. The four staple musical languages are presented here in Gold Rush, St. Louis Blues, I’ll Fly Away and Beaumont Rag. Canadian music is represented by McNabbs and Fourth Floor, the music of J. S. Bach makes an appearance, as does South American music, with Tico Tico no Fubá, a Brazilian choro, among others. Mark O’Connor’s original arrangements of these pieces are exciting and challenging — the perfect next step for students who have completed O’Connor Method Book III or the equivalent. Each piece is accompanied by an audio performance by Mark and his collaborators. Special highlights of this collection are the six arrangements for violin duo. The duo parts are available for purchase in Six Violin Duos (also available on iBooks).
♦» The O’Connor Method employs classic violin technique and theory, combined with American music, history, creativity, and improvisation to teach students to become better skilled classical violinists and string players in the 21st century. The goal of the O’Connor Method is for string players everywhere to fall in love with playing music and become bold, imaginative and creative individuals.
|O’Connor Band with Mark O’Connor — Coming Home (August 5, 2016)|