Cork, County Cork, Munster, Ireland
He’s been working since the eighties, but has until now escaped wide recognition. That could be because his home is Cork, Ireland, perhaps near in the heart of Anglo-Saxon culture but hardly a regular stop on the creative music circuit. Now, however, he’s starting to turn heads. In a flurry of activity starting in 2004, the guitarist has established his name in the jazz scene. Make that in the several jazz scenes, and even beyond jazz’s invisible frontiers. Mark O’Leary’s astonishing capacity for work has resulted in vital record releases and countless encounters with the top musicians active in creative music. Just a partial list of sideman and leader gigs includes Paul Bley, Günter Müller, Matthew Shipp, Bobo Stenson, Uri Caine, Billy Hart, Tomas Stanko, Cuong Vu, Pierre Favre, and Mat Maneri. Such different playing partners reflects his great capacity to adapt and mutate his own vocabulary. But O’Leary also possesses an extraordinary ability to stay true to his very personal interior voice. Whether in a mainstream context or avant-garde situations, Mark O’Leary is always Mark O’Leary. An heir of guitar pointillists such as Jim Hall and John Abercrombie, he has a lyrical sensibility but expresses it with a bittersweet sound and a fascination for structural complexity – including tricky time signatures, unorthodox harmonies, extended techniques – even when he’s improvising. His most recent musical companions are trumpeters Jeff Kaiser and John Fumo, who also are known for their flexibility and openness, able to go from free jazz to pop-rock in the blink of an eye, and drummer extraordinaire Alex Cline, a crossover specialist. Such flexible musicians make “On the Shore” really move, like sea waves against the land. Have a listen and believe…
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