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Closure by Mark O'leary

I have a friend, who as much as he loves jazz, refuses to listen to trios. When pressed, all he can do is mumble about how boring they are. Now, my friend’s judgment is more often than not suspect (he’s an avid collector of Tiny Tim memorabilia), but his discrimination got me thinking. There’s a risk in a trio setting that the more common quartet most often avoids. The key is space. These spaces can be bane or boon. In less successful combos, the listener can be left adrift, anticipating a release that never comes. It’s as if the three parts never mix, never jell into anything greater than those same parts. Worse, in a combo sans bass like O’Leary’s current disc, there’s no bottom end to fill the holes. One can be left with notion that the three are playing separate rooms, that three musicians are speaking through their instruments to a space that cannot be breached. Luckily O’Leary and company avoid any such tragedies. Here’s a disc of beautiful interplay, moment after moment in which space is used with expert ease, throwing into relief the ideas and interplay of the participants.

Mark O’Leary is new to me. I confess no small ignorance of most things, with jazz guitar somewhere on that voluminous list. I mean, I know the big guys in my dark little corner of jazz. I’m constantly wowed by Joe Morris and James Blood Ulmer, who puts me in orbit. I get real misty-eyed thinking about Sonny Sharrock. Heck, Jim Hall makes me feel no small thing. I confess to having received the disc Closure, along with O’Leary’s other Leo release, Levitation. The double dose does much to cure the new.

The disc Closure gives an interesting slice of O’Leary. Joined by Uri Caine on keyboards and Ben Perowsky on percussion, this is a raucous affair. There’s a steel spring tension that pervades the date. O’Leary’s tone seems a bit rough; the sounds seem to come in shards with a less than dull edge. Even the quiet moments come with angles. Caine feeds this. I picture his hands a stabbing dance on the keys. The two often lock together, building a feeding tension. If my ears work right, O’Leary seems a bit bluesy throughout, a little gut driven, with Caine darkening the blue. Perowsky favors a forceful presence. At times, he races ahead of both the other players. This isn't to say that moments of quiet and contemplative drift can’t be found. Though brimming with energy (maybe some anger?), when things slow you can hear the connections. All but two of the compositions come from O’Leary’s head. If Levitation floated on space and quiet, then Closure brings O’Leary to an earth made with grit and no mean ferocity.

My dark corner just got a bit bigger and, dare I say, a bit lighter. O’Leary and company deliver with passion and artistry, reaching across the space between them and the listener through soul felt sonics. Now, if I can just get my Tiny Tim minded friend to listen....

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mark O'leary
  • CD Title: Closure
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Leo Records
  • Musicians: Uri Caine (piano), Ben Perowsky (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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