Patrick O'Hearn

In the early '80s, this bassist and synthesist was mired in the glitz and grind of pop music as a member of the group Missing Persons. Then friend Peter Baumann, best known for his work with Tangerine Dream, made O'Hearn an offer he couldn't refuse. Baumann had visions of starting a record label catering to his first love, contemporary electronic music, and he wanted O'Hearn to become a charter member of the new company. Nearly a decade and a half-dozen albums later, O'Hearn is still amazed at the success of Ancient Dreams, the richly hued debut release that established his career as a solo artist and helped launch the Private Music label. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Oregon, O'Hearn was exposed to a wide variety of music by his parents, who were both working musicians. Though he studied cello, violin, and flute, he gained early experience playing bass with his parents' lounge act. As his musicianship began to excel, he found himself accompanying jazz greats like Joe Henderson, Joe Pass, Tony Williams, and Charles Lloyd. While living in San Francisco in the mid '70s, he played with Frank Zappa and co-founded the visionary progressive band Group 87 with Mark Isham and Peter Maunu before joining Missing Persons. O'Hearn's style reflects all of these experiences within the context of a highly personal electronic sound. During the late '80s, however, his innovative vision seemed to blur under the strain of the commercialism infiltrating the new-age and contemporary instrumental realms. Urged on by increasingly conservative, pop-oriented executives at Private Music, O'Hearn conformed to more conventional song forms on albums like Between Two Worlds and Rivers Gonna Rise. His music suffered from excessive predictability as a result. The record label even released some crass disco mixes of the composer's most tuneful selections on the embarrassing Mix Up. Fortunately, O'Hearn's good musical sense prevailed in the long run. His more recent releases Eldorado and Indigo are both admirable, highly satisfying albums. He is, however, the last remnant of the Private Music label's original roster of innovative, electronic-based instrumentalists. So Flows the Current marked his second release of the new millennium, issued in early 2001.
Linda Kohanov, Rovi