Connor O’Neill, The Same Changes, Vol. II Review
Finding the New in the Familiar: A Journey Through Connor O’Neill’s The Same Changes, Vol. II
by Stamish Malcuss
The jazz scene in Philadelphia, a city deeply embedded with a rich jazz heritage, has always been a playground for the most ambitious of musicians. It’s a space where you’ll encounter a generation of artists equally at home with tradition as they are with experimentation. Enter Connor O’Neill, whose album, The Same Changes, Vol. II, drops like a balm on a soul seeking more than just melodies and harmonies. O’Neill is a guitarist and composer; more importantly, he’s a storyteller. His album unfolds like chapters in a soul-stirring novel, taking listeners through the ebbs and flows of life’s complexities. The music here moves past the notes—it’s about the emotional textures that can only be understood in the context of their creator’s lived experiences.
Before diving into the tracks, it’s worth mentioning the accomplished musicians O’Neill has rallied for this recording. His ensemble not only complements his vision but adds layers of interpretive meaning. Alex Delcourt on bass, Steven Perry on drums, Morgan Walbridge on vibraphone, Mervin Toussaint on alto sax, Jessica Cantone on voice, and Micah Graves on piano—each adds a distinctive voice to O’Neill’s complex musical story.
“Disordinance” is the opening track and our first impression of our musical journey. The sonic landscape O’Neill crafts here and Walbridge’s otherworldly vibraphone create an environment of meditative pastel colors. O’Neill’s guitar work, emphasizing motifs over gratuitous shredding, feels like a spirit navigating through life’s disarray. Delcourt’s bass solo, eloquent yet understated, acts like a guide showing us the way through the labyrinth.
“Another Moment Reconciled” blooms like a spring flower after a harsh winter. Its shifting time signatures and melodic textures speak to the fluidity of emotion and life. O’Neill’s guitar soloing is like articulate monologues, capturing the essence of reconciliation with one’s past or even the present moment.
“Gears” offers a new dimension of travel when Mervin Toussaint’s saxophone brings in an entirely new color palette. O’Neill’s guitar lines navigate the terrain like a winding river—sometimes calm, sometimes turbulent. Toussaint’s solo captures the spirit of modern jazz—rooted in history but unmistakably forward-looking.
“Early Departure”: This emotionally charged track is an ode to loss and the relentless march of time. O’Neill’s technique of “chromatic wandering” creates a journey where the scenery continually changes. The song captures the essence of change and loss so beautifully that it leaves you contemplating your own life. The lyrics by Jon Williams are the very soul of this piece, capturing the intimacy of parting and the inexorability of change.
“Singularity” is aplomb in thematic development. With Micah Graves on piano, the piece starts with a laid-back, minor-modal environment before the ensemble kicks it into high gear. Graves’ solo is an enthralling dialogue between dissonance and resolution, encapsulating the album’s overarching theme—finding order in chaos.
“Jade”: The album’s closing track brings everything full circle. The swirling arpeggios at the beginning feel like a return to the chaos from which we started, but there’s a newfound understanding now. O’Neill’s guitar tone—muffled and echoing—implies that we’re reminiscing, but it also suggests hope. The group’s fluidity here is absolutely conversational; ideas are exchanged and developed seamlessly.
Connor O’Neill’s The Same Changes, Vol. II is a musical and emotional voyage that shouldn’t be missed. Crafted from the crucible of ‘negative’ experiences, the album emerges as a deeply affecting and musically innovative experience. Whether you’re a seasoned aficionado of jazz or a seeker of transcendent experiences, this album invites you into a world where you can both lose and find yourself. Don’t let this pivotal work pass you by; in an ever-shifting jazz landscape, The Same Changes, Vol. II resoundingly declares Connor O’Neill as a formidable force in contemporary jazz.