What other soloist can do this?

August 15, 2015 at 03:34 AM · Mark O'Connor shows us why the violin is such a magnificent instrument. In the right hands, the range of sounds and emotions can not be beat.

Mark O'Connor at Monte Rio

Replies (20)

August 15, 2015 at 04:27 AM · I did enjoy his folky parts, but his Bach where not in my taste. And his La Bamba sounded North, not South American.

Mark is a brilliant fiddler, but he can't play all styles, if that was what you were implying.

August 15, 2015 at 08:29 AM · Gilles Apap.

August 15, 2015 at 12:47 PM · Henry Lau

August 15, 2015 at 06:03 PM · Well here's a plug for another versatile French violinist, Guillaume Antonini. I'm sure I could find recordings of more classical works given time. And his quartet has just recorded Stravinsky and Bartok's 3rd Quartet...

Swing; https://youtu.be/xvmVhtuihlo?t=1m30s

Mozart; https://youtu.be/N3cW7JZvEcY

Comedy; https://youtu.be/6TLW8_KkLpE

Pierre Boulez; https://youtu.be/uhbRlmPQO68

Jimi Hendrix; https://youtu.be/QVDnT14QuLY

August 15, 2015 at 06:12 PM · 'La Bamba' is a Mexican song. Mexico is North America, not South America.

August 15, 2015 at 07:09 PM · Some quick reactions:

Gilles Apap makes beautiful music, but I could not find him improvising anywhere on Youtube. Maybe I missed something.

Henry Lau is terrific at "Vivaldi rock", if that's your favorite genre'. Very little beyond that is on Youtube.

Guillaume Antonini is the real deal! Thank you for mentioning him. His improvisations go more in the contemporary classical direction eg., the Hendrix and Boulez, but his Grappelli swing is really nice. His Mozart KV421 is heavenly. He is another soloist star with mastery across a wide range of beautiful violin performances. Thanks again.

August 15, 2015 at 10:18 PM · I've had the pleasure of hearing Ben Powell out here in LA, and his site is well worth checking out. I thought of him immediately when the phrase "all styles" came up!

Ben's site

August 16, 2015 at 12:27 PM · His Bach was lacking IMHO, also. While all the notes were there in blinding speed, there was no emotion, no soul. He is an extraordinary player though.

August 17, 2015 at 02:33 AM · Echae Kang -- High level classical technique and spectacular improv chops.

August 17, 2015 at 02:59 AM · Echae Kang Wieniawski caprice with improv.

August 17, 2015 at 12:58 PM · Hi Roy. My answer was going to be you!

I also wonder how good Didier Lockwood's Bach would be. He can definitely play the violin. We often talk about whether classical violinists can play any jazz with idiomatic improvisation, but the other side of that coin is whether any of the best jazz violinists can play classical, and my guess is they can -- and some of them have. Was not Jean-Luc Ponty a fully trained orchestral violinist before he ventured into modern jazz and fusion? I don't think you get there without being able to play passable solo Bach.

A lot has been written on this site about Mark O'Connor, particularly in connection to his remarks about Shinichi Suzuki, but honestly I think O'Connor is an amazing violinist who has forged an original and enviable career.

August 17, 2015 at 02:58 PM · Two more wonderful discoveries - thanks, Nathan and Roy.

Ben Powell has some excellent Grappelli swing on Youtube. I could not find any Bach, or other classical, but after hearing his rendition of "What Is This Thing Called Love", its clear he has both chops and classical technique.

Echae Kang is a stunning discovery. It seems her improv interests are in the direction of classical pieces, but she brings in plenty of blues skills. Her rendition of Wieniawksi's Etude & Caprice is a sparkling mix of the original, blues using the melodies, chopping, and pizzacato. Her blues improv on Paganini's Caprice #24 is also interesting. She's an amazing and very talented artist. Thanks for pointing her out.

August 19, 2015 at 03:24 AM · Thanks, Paul for the vote of confidence :-) I'm still struggling with jazz, but I've gotten to the point where I can play gigs althogh I'm far from a jazz pro.

So far there are no violinists who have achieved excellence in both jazz and classical in the sense of having a substantial performing career in both arenas. I think Echae Kang could be the first if she decides to pursue that route. Her classical technique is better than any non-classical violinist I have heard -- even better than MOC. There is an interesting video by the way, of Echae and MOC playing his double violin concerto with the Berklee orchestra. She was a student there at the time. There seems to be more than a little friendly competition going on.

I firmly believe it is possible to achieve excellence in both areas. People on other instruments have done it. Fredrich Gulda was a famous classical pianist who performed jazz at the Newport Jazz Festival, etc. etc. Andre Previn was a master in both camps. Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett have recorded some very creditable Bach on piano. Chris Thile has made a wonderful recording of the 6 Sonatas and Partitas. And Wynton Marsalis has achived fame in both camps although I find his classical playing somewhat lacking.

MOC has recorded a couple of movements of Bach. So far he's not at home in the style. We'll see if he sticks with it.

As far as technical achievement goes, although there have been no jazz violinists with a technique on the level of the great soloists, it has certainly happened on other instruments. Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson have been loved and envied on purely pianistic grounds by many of the top classical soloists.

Tatum, who was known as the Horowitz of jazz was admired by Horowitz. The story goes that the two met -- Horowitz played his arrangement of Stars and Stripes for Tatum, and Tatum played his version of Tea for Two. Tatum asked "How long did it take you to make that arrangement?" "About a month" Horowitz replied. "And how long did it take you to make yours?" Tatum: "I made it up just now!"

August 20, 2015 at 04:56 AM · I read somewhere that Rubinstein went to see Tatum play in some dive. Someone asked him what he thought and he said he didn't see how it was even possible.

There's a legend of Art Tatum that studio pianists, many of whom had excellent pianos and serious reel-to-reel tape recorders at home, would "kidnap" Tatum, take him home, give him a fifth of scotch, sometimes two, let the tape roll, and he'd play for hours. There's probably a thousand hours of fabulous solo Tatum on tape that we'll never hear.

What about now? Honestly, if you listen to jazz pianists today (and I listen to jazz piano and pianos trios at least 3-4 hours a day), believe me, there is no shortage of chops. Most of these guys (nearly all of them are men, which I think is just too weird) were brought up with very heavy-duty classical training and even though they never made it to the competition circuit or Carnegie, they've definitely got game. Not only is there chops, but there's musical taste, originality, freshness, etc. I think we're in a golden age of the jazz piano trio. Go to jazzradio.com and stream the piano trios channel for a few hours if you don't believe me.

Jazz violin is somehow different. I've argued many times that I think there must be some organic impediment to playing true idiomatic improvised jazz on the violin, which I have previously speculated may be due to its tuning in fifths. I tried setting up a violin in fourths but I never had the time to give that project a real college try. (The guitar and the bass are tuned in fourths, and they're ubiquitous in jazz.)

So, lots of classical pianists with great chops move over into jazz. And yet, while the number of violinists with sufficient chops is astronomical, the number that could hold their own with a run-of-the-mill trumpet, sax, or piano player at a jazz gig just blowing on up-tempo swing numbers from the Real Book (NOT "Grappelli swing" or "gypsy jazz" or "fusion" where frankly you can get away by filling most of your solo time with canned licks or electronic effects) is maybe like 10 in the whole world. MOC is one of them. Who are the others?

What about me? I play jazz piano. I thought about trying to do some jazz violin, and now I'm in a Brazilian group, where I might eventually do some improv. But if I have time to spend on jazz, I'd rather spend it reaching the next level on the piano than mediocrity on the violin.

August 20, 2015 at 05:15 AM · There are some good jazz violinists in Japan.

August 20, 2015 at 02:34 PM · Yeah? Any YouTubes or self-published recording? I'd love to hear them.

August 21, 2015 at 02:18 AM · Paul: If you are a competent jazz pianist and a reasonably competent violinist you are 60-70% on your way to being a reasonably competent jazz violinist. It could bring you lots of good opportunities. And you will do the music world a favor. Please think about this.

August 21, 2015 at 11:17 AM · A few months ago, someone on Maestronet mentioned the Japanese jazz violinist Naoko Terai. I'm not familiar with violin jazz so I cannot say anything about her. Unfortunately, many of her YouTube videos show her playing pop more than jazz but she is a real jazz player.

The same Maestronet thread also mentioned Ikuko Kawai and Taro Hakase.

August 21, 2015 at 03:16 PM · A significant percentage of the top Scottish fiddlers from the last 200 years or so have been professional-level classical players - this kind of crossover is just part of the culture.

Perhaps the most famous example was the great Scott Skinner, who was trained by Charles Rougie of the Hallé and played classical pops at his concerts.

Contemporary examples would include Douglas Lawrence, Chris Stout and Alastair Hardie.

Many Scots fiddlers are also respected jazz exponents and work in cross-genre collaborations such as Salsa Celtica.

August 21, 2015 at 09:10 PM · Roy, I'm well on my way! I've been invited to play in a Brazilian group (mostly Jobim bossas and such) and I'm shedding the tunes (including a few choruses of improv at a time) at home with iReal Pro. I'm not ruling it out! It's just hard to do everything.

Folk fiddle improv is a great skill too, but honestly I don't think it's nearly as demanding as straight-ahead jazz. There is not nearly the same level of harmonic depth.

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