Fresh from a performance to open the new Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, the tour of Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio stops at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville on Sunday, January 16 for a 7:00 p.m. concert in the Bank of America TPAC Presents Series.
Winner of two Grammy Awards, and six-time recipient of the “Musician of the Year Award” by the Country Music Association, O’Connor returns to the city with guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist Jon Burr for a concert of jazz classics and new compositions.
“Whether you call him a fiddler or a violinist, Mark O’Connor is one of the greatest musicians of our time. I can’t name another instrumentalist who has seen more success in a variety of musical forms—bluegrass, country, classical, and jazz,” said Brent Hyams, TPAC’s director of marketing. “Given Mark’s extensive work in Nashville as a studio musician, we’re excited to welcome him to TPAC. Old friends and longtime friends will be in the audience with those who admire his more recent work in jazz with Frank and Jon or his groundbreaking collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. No matter what musical style you associate with Mark O’Connor, you know that the musicianship doesn’t get any better than this. ”
In 1983, O’Connor moved to Nashville and established himself as a studio musician with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s single “High Horse.” He went on to play on 450 albums, including such stellar projects as Trio by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris; Always & Forever by Randy Travis; Killin’ Time by Clint Black; and Loving Proof by Ricky Van Shelton. Despite his success, O’Connor gave up session work, moved to San Diego, and turned his concentration to composing and a solo career, which took on an international dimension with Appalachia Waltz, a groundbreaking recording of his compositions with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Meyer. The follow-up recording, Appalachian Journey, won a 2001 Grammy Award.
Born and raised in Seattle, O’Connor studied guitar as a young child. Inspired by Doug Kershaw’s performance on a Johnny Cash television special, he begged for violin lessons at age 11. Less than a year after his first lesson, O’Connor was invited to study with old-time fiddling master Benny Thomasson. The following year, the prodigy won the junior division of the National Old-Time Fiddlers Contest. As a teenager, O’Connor recorded three albums for Rounder Records and continued to win competitions, including the Grand Masters Fiddling Championship in Nashville. Soon after he graduated from high school, he was selected to play the guitar with the David Grisman Quintet for a tour with the world-renowned French violinist Stephane Grappelli—a tour that introduced O’Connor to a second master who became his mentor and friend, though his style varied so dramatically from Thomasson’s.
Taking part in a tribute concert to Stephane Grappelli after his death in 1997, he met Jon Burr who had played bass for O’Connor’s mentor for 11 years. Guitarist Frank Vignola happened by backstage and the three men began to run through some tunes and almost instantly decided to work together. The music of the Hot Swing Trio started out as a salute to the legendary duo of Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt, who had played gypsy swing jazz together for years, but soon expanded to include their own compositions. Now performing a blend of their arrangements of period pieces and new material reflecting their diverse experiences in American music, the trio has played to critical and popular acclaim nationwide, including the recent Lincoln Center Jazz Club appearance with Wynton Marsalis. The trio released Hot Swing! in 2001 and In Full Swing in 2003 with guest artists Wynton Marsalis and Jane Monheit.
Over the course of a 30-year career dubbed “one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music” by the New York Times, O’Connor has created his own tapestry of American music, weaving together the rich traditions of bluegrass, country, classical, swing and jazz, releasing a total of 27 of his own albums.
“In a sense, all I’ve ever been doing is trying to develop an interesting way to play the violin, a more flexible way to communicate through this wooden box,” said O’Connor in an interview with the New York Times. “It isn’t like, well, I’m going to play jazz now, or do the Nashville thing now. I always just wanted to get better, and if a new musical experience would help, I never wanted to turn it away.”
MARK O’CONNOR’S HOT SWING TRIO will be performed at TPAC’s James K. Polk Theater for one night only: Sunday, January 16 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $30.
For tickets, visit the TPAC Box Office (Downtown or at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills), online at www.tpac.org, or any Ticketmaster outlet. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 615/255-ARTS (2787). For information on offers for groups of 20 or more, call TPAC Group Sales at 615/782-4060.
MARK O’CONNOR’S HOT SWING TRIO is sponsored by Bank of America.
The Tennessee Performing Arts Center is a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to providing and supporting the presentation of the performing arts to the citizens of Tennessee. Its four stages are home to Broadway in Nashville at TPAC, Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera, The Nashville Symphony, Tennessee Repertory Theatre and a variety of special engagements. TPAC administers one of the largest and most comprehensive arts-in-education programs in the United States, offering learning opportunities for children and adults. The organization has served more than 1.3 million students from pre-school to high school over the past two decades. For more information, visit the web site www.tpac.org.