Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

MARK O’LEARY – On the shore (CF 091)
The name of Irish guitarist O’Leary is popping up rather frequently these days, and it does it in very different contexts involving artists as diverse as Paul Bley, Mat Maneri and Günter Müller. His guitar style changes mask quite often too, depending on the occasion. This album, recorded in 2003 and which we have no problem in linking with a “near ECM” aesthetic, sees him on electric and 12-string acoustic flanked by drummer and percussionist Alex Cline and the trumpet duo of Jeff Kaiser – boss of the pfMENTUM label – and John Fumo. The titles – of the CD and the tracks – are pretty much self-explanatory about the kind of vistas evoked by the quartet, the players even imitating the voices of seagulls at one point. Everything is channelled into a relaxed enough vibe despite the absence of typical turnarounds and hooks; this is favoured by the leader’s choice of alternating a graciously clogged clean tone (reminiscent of one of the references quoted in the press release, John Abercrombie) in the most linear playing with sudden shifts of gear under the guise of semi-overdriven nervousness, modifying the music’s pulse in several instances. Cline performs brightly, also utilizing sticks, stones and shells collected by O’Leary around the Cork Harbour (the place that basically inspired this music), refined accompaniment and virtuoso interplay highlighting his presence. The timbral pairing of Kaiser and Fumo is both a complementary colour and a premier creative partnership for the successful realization of the guitarist’s concepts, their instruments at times nearly invisible, elsewhere purposefully focused in maintaining an atmosphere of utter suspension amidst fading memories.

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