Mark O'Connor was one of the most influential and innovative fiddlers of the 1970s/1980s "newgrass" scene, emerging as a teenage prodigy, winning the first of several national fiddle (and guitar) competitions in 1975, at the tender age of thirteen. O'Connor went on to record prolifically, first as part of the the Rounder label's cast of "usual suspects" and as a solo act; O'Connor incorporated jazz stylings into his repertoire (collaborating with gypsy swing legend Stephane Grappelli) and later turned to classical music, where he has become a well-regarded composer. Here's a quick look at his work...
Mark O'Connor "The Championship Years" (Country Music Foundation, 1990)
Fiddle prodigy Mark O'Connor blew everybody's minds back in the late 1970s and early '80s when one year after another he swept the prestigious National Old Time Fiddler's Contest, (which is held in Weisner, Idaho). In 1973, the first year he competed, the 11-year old O'Connor came in second, despite having only picked up the fiddle a few months before. After that, from 1975-84, he dominated the competition to such a remarkable extent that the judges kept changing the rules so that he would not be able to hold a lock on individual contests year after year. This generously-programmed album gathers together a few dozen of his best performances... admittedly, the sound quality isn't the greatest, but his performances are uniformly stunning. Anyone interested in O'Connor's early years, when he was more deeply rooted in traditional music than he has since become, should definitely check this out. It will explain a lot about this guy's tremendous influence on the world of bluegrass fiddling.
Mark O'Connor "Retrospective" (Rounder, 1990)
Mark O'Connor "Thirty-Year Retrospective" (Omac, 2003)
Mark O'Connor "The Essential Mark O'Connor" (Sony, 2007)
Mark O'Connor "National Junior Fiddling Champion" (Rounder, 1974) (LP)
Mark O'Connor "Pickin' In The Wind" (Rounder, 1975) (LP)
Mark O'Connor/Benny Thomasson/Texas Shorty/Terry Morris "A Texas Jam Session Featuring Four World Champion Fiddlers" (Mark O'Connor, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mark O'Connor & Marty O'Connor)
As advertised, a jam session between four of the best American fiddlers of the 1970s, recorded June 14-15, 1976... This album was privately released by the still-teenaged Mark O'Connor, and sold directly from his home in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. Plenty of mighty fine fiddling!
Mark O'Connor "Markology" (Rounder, 1979)
By the time this record came out, O'Connor had been gigging with David Grisman's spacegrass inner circle for several years. As the erudite-sounding album title implies, this was an early work which was influenced by Grisman's groundbreaking grass-jazz fusions, but, interestingly enough, one on which he chose to focus on the guitar, rather than the fiddle. The results are mighty fine. Still relatively traditional (although a couple of tunes may be worth skipping over), and very easy on the ears. Plenty of fine picking by the likes of Sam Bush, Tony Rice, Dan Crary and Grisman himself. Worth checking out.
Mark O'Connor "On The Rampage" (Rounder, 1979) (LP)
Mark O'Connor "Soppin' The Gravy" (Rounder, 1980)
Mark O'Connor "False Dawn" (Rounder, 1982) (LP)
Mark O'Connor & The Dixie Dregs "Industry Standard" (Arista, 1982)
Mark O'Connor "Meanings Of" (Warner, 1985)
Mark O'Connor "Stone From Which The Arch Was Made" (Arista, 1986)
Mark O'Connor "Elysian Forest" (Arista, 1988)
Mark O'Connor "On The Mark" (Warner, 1989)
Mark O'Connor "The New Nashville Cats" (Warner, 1991)
O'Connor and various hotshot picker pals take on the explosive sounds of "young country" commercial music, as well as amped-up versions of bluegrass and western swing. To say that truegrass fans won't like this album is simply stating the obvious -- why country fans would, either, is a little harder to sort out. Certainly O'Connor & Co. are dazzlingly talented musicians, and it is kind of liberating to hear them horsing around and cutting loose from the boundaries of the new- and bluegrass, where he made his mark. Still, O'Connor playing electric sounds a lot like Charlie Daniels, and the musical style that he is so affectionately sending up (TV commercial country) simply lacks soul. It would have been a lot more interesting if he'd played it straight and put a little more sincere emotion into the performances.
Mark O'Connor "Heroes" (Warner Brothers, 1993)
Marko pals around with his fellow fiddle slingers, including such luminaries as Stephane Grapelli, Pinchas Zukerman, Kenny Baker, Johnny Gimble, Doug Kershaw, Vassar Clements and Buddy Spicher. A good album, despite a rough start with a pair of icky tracks featuring Jean Luc Ponty and Charlie Daniels (a reprise of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," of course, with Johnny Cash helping on the narration...) O'Connor even crosses into world music terrain, sawing away alongside the famed Indian classical-fusion violinist, L. Shankar. Slick, but worth checking out.
Mark O'Connor "The Fiddle Concerto" (Warner, 1994)
With the Concordia Orchestra...
Mark O'Connor/Yo-Yo Ma/Edgar Meyer "Appalachia Waltz" (Sony, 1996)
Mark O'Connor "Liberty!" (Sony, 1997)
A television soundtrack, with Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis and James Taylor...
Mark O'Connor "Midnight On The Water" (Sony, 1998)
Mark O'Connor "Fanfare For The Volunteer" (Sony, 1999)
With the London Philharmonic Orchestra...
Mark O'Connor/Yo-Yo Ma/Edgar Meyer "Appalachian Journey" (Sony, 2000)
Mark O'Connor "The American Seasons" (Sony, 2001)
With the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra
Mark O'Connor "Hot Swing!" (Omac, 2001)
With Frank Vignola and Jon Burr...
Mark O'Connor "Hot Swing Trio: In Full Swing" (Sony, 2003)
With Wynton Marsalis...
Mark O'Connor "Crossing Bridges" (Omac, 2004)
Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio "Live In New York" (Omac, 2005)
Mark O'Connor "Double Violin Concerto" (Omac, 2005)
With violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg...
Mark O'Connor "Folk Mass" (Omac, 2006)
Mark O'Connor "Americana Symphony" (Omac, 2008)
Mark O'Connor "String Quartets No. 2 & 3" (Omac, 2009)
Mark O'Connor "Jam Session" (Omac, 2010)
Mark O'Connor "An Appalachian Christmas" (Omac, 2011)
Mark O'Connor "Johnny Appleseed" (Rabbit Ears, 1992)
A children's story, produced in collaboration with radio host Garrison Keillor...
Mark O'Connor "The Night Before Christmas" (Rabbit Ears, 1993)
Actress Meryl Streep narrates...
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