Oller & Co.
Christian Oller is a French diatonic accordeonist with an impeccable pedigree stretching back through traditional bands like Le Grand Rouge and Lo Jai. On his new album, offering pieces from a stage show of the same name, he shifts his musical focus away from central French folk tunes and into jazz and classical, areas one might expect a diatonic player to shy away from. The secret is in his customized squeezebox, retaining the push-pull system for the right hand but offering a fuller set of basses such as is normally found on the chromatic instrument.
Technical stuff aside, this is a most interesting and satisfying record. A great sense of space pervades the proceedings as Oller, either alone (see "Petites Histoires") or with woodwind co-conspirators, weaves delicate melodies across a backdrop of accordeon basses, guitar or keyboard. The tight interplay between accordeon and the clarinet of Frédéric Espinoux on "Vendredi Matin" and the "Bourrées de Pluvy" set is a particular pleasure, while on three tracks Roger Lassalle's chromatic box acts as Oller's foil, the two accordeons blending beautifully on "Cirqu'en 92" to give the impression of one instrument and several nimble hands. At the classical end of things, "Sicilienne" is led beautifully by Laure Michel's recorders with Oller tastefully fleshing out the middle distance, while the C.P.E. Bach "Polonaises" are given a portentous twin squeezebox and percussion treatment. "Les Impromptues" and "Itinérances," Oller compositions both, explore minimalist techniques reminiscent of Steve Reich, while "Foehn-Mazurka" develops into jazzy improvisation, and "Un Piacer" is a suitably adapted Argentinian bandoneon tune.
It almost goes without saying, but it is worth mentioning that Christian Oller's playing is quite excellent throughout. There's plenty of musical variety here, with sufficient vestiges of French folk music to keep most tradition-minded music fans on board, and an overall mood of languid relaxation that makes the whole thing hang together nicely. Well worth exploring. - Brian Peters
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