This Mark O'Connor is not the well-known violinist, but a Chicago tenor saxophonist with the same name. And a very good saxophonist he is. On Mirage, his debut album, O'Connor and an assortment of first-rate local colleagues offer an attractive program of straightahead, modern-mainstream compositions and improvisations worthy of anyone's attention. O'Connor's own tunes include a Horace Silver-like hard bop swinger, a lyrical bossa nova, a funky blues and a couple of fascinating contemporary numbers, all of which demonstrate the composer's ability to craft melodically and rhythmically engaging lines. He also solos confidently in a versatile post-Coltrane hard-bop style. While he swings easily in a secure, fluid fashion, he can also handle a ballad with expressiveness and melodic sensitivity.
Trumpeter Tito Carrillo appears on half of the 10 tracks, and although he demonstrates solid hard-bop chops of his own, his smooth flugelhorn work on the leader's gentle bossa "Para Tom" is especially noteworthy. In spite of the fact that all the arrangements are in quartet or quintet format, two pianists, four bassists and three drummers appear on the album. But since they all seem to be of relatively equal caliber and similar perspective, the listener will rarely, if ever, be aware of the personnel switches. An especially fine first effort.