Originally created 11/10/05

Violinist focuses on new sound with his American string music



Over the course of his nearly 30-year career, violinist Mark O'Connor has composed classical pieces, fiddled with bluegrass bands and developed a well-documented thing for swing.

It's his swing experimentations, which combine classic jazz arrangements and the sound of gypsy violin, that he's bringing Friday to the Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.

Mr. O'Connor, who has recorded three albums with his Hot Swing Trio and is touring with a quintet, said his jazz explorations have always been about bringing together disparate musical elements that are distinctly American.

"The cross-pollination of these exercises (is) proving to be a real model for how to bring back American string music," he said in a recent telephone interview. "It's the same sort of model Louis Armstrong and Bob Wills and Elvis Presley followed. It's how American music - really, music in general - develops."

Although all of Mr. O'Connor's music is written for the violin, he said, his instrument of choice is secondary to the stylistic decisions he makes.

"If I'm preaching, it's not about the violin itself, but American music, played on the violin," he said. "There's been a big void left for American repertoire on this instrument. What I want to do in my career is fill that void."

Mr. O'Connor said that goal continues to lead him through a variety of styles and sounds. Be it mountain or chamber, his music, he said, is part of a whole.

"For me, it's always been about the body of work," he said. "What I look at is the arc, the overview of my career. I figure I'm about halfway through, and I can only hope that the second half is as interesting and satisfying."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

ONSTAGE

WHAT: Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: The Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St.

COST: $30; 722-8341.