MARK O'CONNOR'S HOT SWING TRIO; "In Full Swing" (Odyssey/Sony) ** 1/2
Movies do it. So do books. And musicians, too, for that matter. But, as we all know, sequels aren't always all they're cracked up to be.
Unfortunately, that's also the case with Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio "In Full Swing" CD.
Mark O'Connor is an amazingly talented fiddler who plays the gamut of styles, from Texas bluegrass to classical concertos. This album marks his second recording with guitarist Frank Vignola and bassist Jon Burr, the Hot String Trio, in tribute to jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.
The first album, "Hot Swing!" is brilliant. The irony of "In Full Swing" is that its weak spot is the "guest artists," Wynton Marsalis and Jane Monheit.
The basic trio — O'Connor, Vignola, and Burr — are the meat and potatoes of this album. In fact, the three strongest charts — "In Full Swing," "Limehouse Blues," and "One Beautiful Evening" — are fantastic, and they all stick to the original trio. Two of the three are also written by members of the trio.
It sounds as if trumpeter Marsalis and vocalist Monheit were added for variety, and that they provide nicely. The only problem is that Marsalis and Monheit don't project any strong personality in their playing. They're both incredibly gifted musicians, but they hang back on this album, and their playing/singing tends to be on the bland side.
On the other hand, get Vignola and O'Connor facing off in "Limehouse Blues," and you're in for an incredible ride. If you've already got "Hot Swing," this album is worth listening to. But if you have to choose one, stick with the original.