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Album Review

The Synth Show is Mark O'Leary's ninth release on Leo Records, featuring his ninth different trio in a row. And this one sounds very different, too. Yes, there is a synthesizer showcased here — nothing less than Jamie Saft's — but this album is not the German space music fest you might be set to expect from looking at the cover picture, a shot of German master Klaus Schulze in action (from his 1980 "Linzer Stahlsinfonie" concert, the film of which is now available as a bonus DVD on the Revisited reissue of Dig It, in case you wonder). The funny thing is, Schulze doesn't even get alluded to in the liner notes, which go on to name check Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk as early influences on O'Leary, and Jean-Michel Jarre, Jan Hammer, and Rick Wakeman as inspirations for this specific project. Listening to The Synth Show, especially not too closely (as you would a space music record), you can hear how that genre has permeated the guitarist's music, from the overall mystic mood to his ethereal phrasing. The fusion side of things also had a say, as can be heard in O'Leary's circumvoluting runs — lines that would have been spotlight-grabbing solos on a jazz-rock record, but are here woven into the fabric of the music as simply one voice amid the trio. For equality has been a constant through O'Leary's trio albums, and this one is no different. Saft and drummer Kenny Wollesen contribute volumes to the music, a strange, freely improvised hybrid between post-Bill Frisell avant-garde jazz, Mahavishnu Orchestra on acid, and '70s experimental electronic music. The Synth Show is O'Leary at his best: surprising, conceptual, virtuosic, and emotional. Because it wears its inspirational sources on its sleeve, this album will also work well as an entry point into the guitarist's universe or as a tool to broaden one's musical horizons. ~ François Couture, Rovi

The Synth Show, Mark O'Leary
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  • $11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Dec 01, 2008

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