Mark O'Connor is one of those musicians who transcend the concepts of category and genre. He's played country, classical, jazz and various fusions thereof, and played with a dizzying range of performers: Stephane Grappelli, Emmylou Harris and Bela Fleck, to name just three. But the program for tonight is straight-up jazz of the small-group kind inspired (and perfected) by Grappelli. Just violin, guitar and bass, and they kick up enough dust for a big band. O'Connor doesn't sound much like Grappelli, but in his style a strong presence of that Gallic/Gypsy soul the old master had, plus he's got a healthy shot of Joe Venuti's reckless abandon. O'Connor is loaded with astonishing technique (listen and gasp at his unaccompanied spot on "Nuages") but ability/agility never overshadows emotion, content or swing.
Everybody here plays like this was The Last Waltz, like it was the LAST concert anybody would give, ever. (Oh yeah, this set was recorded live in Morristown, NJ, Feb. 2000.) "Minor Swing" should be required listening for anyone seeking an ideal aural definition of "swing." Guitarist Frank Vignola is no slouch in the technique dept. either, but while he soars he still keeps his feet rooted in the blues ("In The Cluster Blues"), plus he can play real pretty too ("Lament"). Bassist Jon Burr is probably the most overtly "modern" player here - he's a propulsive swing bass man like Milt Hinton or Bob Haggart (drums are neither needed nor missed) but his rippling, bristly virtuoso solos remind me of Dave Holland. Hot Swing lives up to its title and what's more, though this music is built on the foundation laid by Grappelli and Venuti, there's nothing remotely "retro" or old-fashioned about it. This trio is in the Eternal Now, Baby, and they pack the same wallop as The Lounge Lizards or Mingus Dynasty. (OMAC, PO Box 398, Bonsall, CA 92003, or markoconnor.com.)