Live in New York
Live in New York is the third installment in violinist Mark O’Connor’s series of tributes to Django Reinhardt and, more specifically, Stéphane Grappelli, following 2001’s live Hot Swing and ’03’s In Full Swing. All three feature guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist Jon Burr (who spent a decade in Grappelli’s employ) but where the second album was a studio effort featuring guests Wynton Marsalis and vocalist Jane Monheit, Live in New York, like the first entry, places the virtuosic trio in a situation where it can’t not crank up the enthusiasm level. Accordingly, there’s a stoked, nearly giddy feeling permeating this set, recorded in 2004 and divided evenly between O’Connor originals and ideally chosen covers.
In the latter category, Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm,” Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” are all simple, sweet and joyful—no reinventions, but plenty of heart and soul. Unlike Hot Swing, Live (which was sold by O’Connor on his Web site and at shows in 2005 but is only seeing general release now) contains no tunes written by either Reinhardt or Grappelli, but the debt is implicit and their essence pervades, even more so in O’Connor’s own material than the covers: “Funky Swing” and “Gypsy Fantastic” are barnburners that could easily have been lost recordings of Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, and the 11-minute “Anniversary,” with its time shifts and harmonic divergences, is a lyrical, panoramic tour de force (or should that be a tour de France?) within which O’Connor’s violin and Vignola’s guitar lock into a single-minded, adventurous spirit of flight.
The trio saves the best for last, though: “Tiger Rag,” reprised (as is “Fascinating Rhythm”) from In Full Swing, is a blindingly fast feast of flying fingers so dazzling you may find yourself shouting “Showoffs!” even as you bemoan its all-too-soon departure.