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The Mudsliders

Olivier Ker-Ourio - A ride with the wind

Olivier's 3rd solo CD again reinforces his position as one of the chief contenders to inherit the legacy that Baron Toots Thielemanns will leave for future generations of chromatic jazz harmonicists. In Olivier's case the legacy would be in very good hands. Toot's appears to have given Olivier his blessing as demonstrated by their duet on the track 'Caesar', a unique opportunity to hear representatives of the old and new guards 'strutting their stuff'.

The album's title and overall laid-back feeling is reflected in the carefree approach of the opening track 'Cevennes'. Like 8 of the 9 tracks on the album, it was composed by Olivier allowing him to demonstrate his skills at composing with the harmonica in mind, subsequently highlighting the instrument's unique voice.

While staying close to the modern jazz harmonicist's approach of pure single note melodies (notable exceptions being some of Toots's more avent-garde work with Joanne Brackeen, and the approach of William Galison) it is pleasing to hear Olivier tastefully take advantage of some of the chromatic's double-stop capabilities and 'effects' in a way that helps give his playing style it's own unique sound . They aren't used frequently enough to become cliched, but enough to catch the seasoned listener's attention.

Olivier's approach is quite laid back, capturing one's attention with his strong melodic lines rather than irrelevant pyrotechnics, although he demonstrates in places than he can certainly burn it up with the best of them! Throughout the album Olivier constantly arranges the works so that the harmonica will frequently be harmonising with other instruments for extended periods. Like William Galison's chromatic work with the sax player on his album 'Midnight Sun', 'A Ride With The Wind' demonstrates yet again that in the hands of a skilled musician the chromatic can rightfully take its place as a legitimate permanent voice in any combo that will gain the approval of the wider jazz community, not just as a unique voice but one giving a fresh sound to the overall harmonic structure. This album should be required listening for all aspiring jazz chromaticists!

A unique track is 'Nelsinho', featuring Olivier's harmonica and the voice of Isabelle Carpentier. With both of them 'vocalising' single line melodies in harmony, it gives credence to the belief that that one of the harmonica's unique characteristics is it's ability to imitate the human voice. The inclusion of the very tasteful double bass playing of Gildas Bocle is an asset to the album. The rich deep tones of his instrument not only help develop the character of many tracks, but it's deep harmonising lines when bowed by Bocle also present an interesting contrast to the alto lines of Olivier's harmonica.

Paul Farmer