David Royko Psy.D

david@davidroyko.com

Benny and Jerry Thomasson, Mark O'Connor - CD reviews, 1998

Chicago Tribune
Sunday, April 5, 1998
ARTS
RECORDINGS
CD Reviews


Benny & Jerry Thomasson: The Weiser Reunion (Voyager)
Mark O'Connor: Midnight on the Water (Sony Classical) 

A casual sampling might lend the false impression that these two discs come from different worlds. Benny Thomasson was one of the most influential "Texas" fiddlers of the century, and "The Weiser Reunion" catches him and his guitarist sons Jerry and Dale jamming in the campground at the Weiser, Idaho, Old Time Fiddle Contest in 1972. The recorded sound is surprisingly immediate and the playing is technically assured, but it is the steady stream of creative and sometimes disconcerting variations Thomasson weaves through these 20 traditional tunes that illuminates why fiddlers revere his legacy.

The most prominent of those who worship at the altar of Thomasson is Mark O'Connor, who could be considered a modern-day Paganini, though violinist Cho-Liang Lin has said that she doubts the 19th Century master could play with O'Connor's rapidity. His latest is a solo recital, and though there are a few selections with guitar or mandolin, it is this 36-year-old's work with a bow that staggers the imagination. His Caprices and Improvisations may be classical in overall tone, but O'Connor's blending of classical conventions with the dancing spirit and devilish ingenuity of Texas fiddling renders his music unique and impossible to peg.

David Duckman [David Royko]

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