Connor O’Neill: The Same Changes, Vol. II

With his subtly reverberating, bluesy treatments of a set of originals, Philadelphia guitarist O'Neill recalls Bill Frisell and Jim Hall


An alumnus of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, guitarist and composer Connor O’Neil self-released The Same Changes Vol. I in 2022. Now he’s released a follow-up second volume of that title which continues to take the same inspiration for these original tunes. In his own words it’s “a collection of stories – my thoughts, experiences, and reflections manifested as moments in time”. The personnel on volume two is virtually identical to its predecessor and the lyrical tone of the recording is similar.

O’Neill’s compositions on both albums are sophisticated and thoughtful as are the arrangements and deployment of the instrumentation both harmonically and melodically. His subtly reverbed guitar is in the Jim Hall / Bill Frisell ballpark which makes for an attractive performance. There’s some angularity, but mainly the numbers swing with a bluesy underpinning.

Morgan Walbridge captivatingly channels Bobby Hutcherson with a repeated vibes motif on the opener Disordinance. Jessica Cantone’s sublime vocal contribution on Early Departure is both wistful and affecting. O’Neill is a fine guitarist – check out his use of octaves and high-register soloing on Singularity.

Incidentally, The Same Changes takes its title from the pivotal article The Changing Same (R&B and New Black Music) by Amiri Baraka, née LeRoi Jones, in which the author regards Black Music not as a genre, but as a community which evolves over time. The words used to pigeonhole music e.g, “jazz”, “blues”, “modern”, etc, are ill-equipped to accurately describe the art. Miles Davis, who hated the term “jazz”, might well have agreed with this philosophy.

This recording deserves to be heard and is readily available to download from O’Neill’s Bandcamp webpage, as is volume one.

Disordinance; Another Moment Reconciled; Gears; Early Departure; Singularity; Jade (40.37)
O’Neill (elg); Morgan Walbridge (vib); Mervin Toussaint (as); Jessica Cantone (v); Micah Graves (p); Alex Delcourt (b); Steven Perry (d).