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David O'Rourke

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David O'Rourke at the Jazz Standard

By John Swenson
Jazze.com Senior Editor

NEW YORK - One of the best-kept musical secrets in Manhattan is the nightly free performance by David O'Rourke at the upstairs bar of the Jazz Standard. O'Rourke, a versatile and extremely talented guitarist from Ireland who now lives in New York, leads a trio with Thaddeus Expose, a bassist from New Orleans, and Dublin-born David Mason on drums.

Monday through Thursday the trio performs from 6-9:30 pm, and Friday-Saturday from 7-12 midnight, often to larger crowds than the marquee bands downstairs.

"They don't have to pay a cover to listen to me," laughed the modest O'Rourke, who draws an attentive and enthusiastic crowd on most nights. "The key is that they let us play to whatever the mood of the crowd is. Some nights people are pretty low key, but other nights we can turn it up and feed the crowd's energy."

One of the perks of the job is that O'Rourke and his band mates can listen to whatever band is playing downstairs on break. At a recent show O'Rourke was enjoying a Greg Osby performance that included an unusual take on Thelonious Monk's "Nutty."

O'Rourke has gigged extensively as part of Seleno Clarke's organ trio in Harlem lounges, but finds himself devoting more time to the Jazz Standard gig, where guest musicians sometimes show up to jam. He is currently working on several orchestral projects, including orchestrations of a number of Billy Strayhorn pieces. Born in Dublin in 1960, O'Rourke's early instruction on the piano gave him a strong foundation in composition and arrangement. Classic jazz albums in his father's collection also gave him insight into improvisation and inspired his musical direction.

Propelled by the works of such greats as Wes Montgomery, Hank Garland, Pat Martino, George Benson and Louis Stewart, O'Rourke began his jazz career in 1981 as the guitarist for his own quintet, Giant Steps.

He has bounced back and forth between Ireland and New York to pursue a wide range of projects, starring several times at the Cork Jazz Festival, but in recent years has concentrated his work in Manhattan, playing in a wide range of settings.

In early '96 David performed on the world live premiere performance of George Russell's "Concerto for Billy the Kid" and Frank Wess's "Half Moon Street" in a Big Band including several members of the original "Atomic" Basie Band as well as members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra at Town Hall. As part of Seleno's quintet he performed the first music to be played in the reopening of the legendary birthplace of BeBop, Harlem's "Minton's Playhouse." On April 14th, 1997, as part of a benefit concert to aid NAMA (New Amsterdam Music Association) David led a 22 piece band with mostly his own compositions and all his own arrangements including a special project combining his native Ireland's traditional music with jazz, salsa and rap.

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17" Lusso 'Johnny Smith' specs
25" scale
Floating Armstrong pickup
Hand carved European Spruce top
Hand carved European Maple back and sides
Domestic flamey Maple neck to match, extra fancy center stripes
Internal neck stabilizing bar, (.017" thru .060" strings)
Diagonal split block inlays
Hinged, Adjustable height tailpiece
Silver inlayed Signature pickguard, Ebony

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