Erik Truffaz has often been compared to Miles Davis. I think that he wants to be Miles Davis, just as I suppose every jazz trumpet player does. Truffaz could come closer than any of his contemporaries, however.
Based in jazz, he is a groundbreaker who has explored other genres such as hip-hop, and has taken extensive trips into the world of electronic music. He has a lyrical style of playing, like Davis when he wanted to sound that way. There are also differences, of course. Truffaz is more controlled, and does not seem to be given to as much improvisation. He does experiment, however, as on this CD which explores Middle Eastern music.
Half of the twelve tracks feature vocalists: Tunisian Singer Mounir Troudi and poet / rapper Nya. Their tracks are on the first half of the CD. In theory this should work well: Truffaz has a subdued style with a touch of loneliness, and there is more than a touch of melancholy in traditional Arabic vocals. The results, however, are mixed.
On “Yabous”, Troudi alternates with Nya. The traditional Arabic singing does not mix with the rapping, nor does it fit comfortably over hip-hop beats. Troudi also seems out of place on “Gedech”, backed by Manu Codjia’s somewhat heavy electric guitar. Even though Truffaz has worked with Troudi on other recordings, Troudi does not seem to have the right background here. He is best on the track “Ines”, where he is backed only by his own bendir, a round wooden frame drum covered with goatskin.
Truffaz sounds better on “Whispering”, “Le Soleil d’Eline”, and “Et La Vie Continue”, where he plays melodically over bass, drums, and guitar with some subdued electronics. His style also merges well on the reggae / dub influenced “Dubophone”, written by drummer Phillipe Garcia.
Lyricism is the French trumpeter’s strong point. On the second part of the CD, he works with compositions that let him explore melodies instead of trying to fit them in around a genre of music that does not ordinarily use trumpets. On “Tantrik” and “Ghost Drummer” Truffaz sounds like Bitches Brew period Miles, playing rock-inspired fast runs using a wah-wah pedal. His songs are shorter, though, and he does not go as far out as Davis did. Codjia plays prog rock guitar here, with Garcia and bassist Michel Benita putting out fast, choppy rhythms, adding a bit of electronics. “Spirale” is also avant-garde, but slower, featuring drawn out electronic effects.
Truffaz is a major jazz name is France, but he’s not well known in the States, even though this is his fifth Blue Note CD. This will probably not be his breakthrough, and he’s not at his peak here anyway. However, I will take any Truffaz CD over 95 percent of the smooth jazz out there—make that one-hundred per cent.