Erik Truffaz,
(Blue Note, 2002)

Erik Truffaz's playing is deceptive. You hear the slow entry squeaks and the errant pops and think, "This guy can't play." Admittedly, his style belies a classically trained background and some very respectable albums for jazz's cornerstone label, and Truffaz himself would probably let you know you're not listening hard enough, especially on Mantis, but that he gets why you don't always see the magic. He doesn't make it easy for the casual listener, and the influences he brings to bear on this particular record are pretty astonishing. There is a definite groove to the record, almost funk-like but with more openness, which Truffaz offsets with everything from the world singing of Mounir Troudi (on "Magrouni") to a megaphone ("Parlophone"). Even the more mellow selections - particularly the mellow selections - really showcase what Truffaz is attempting to do: play serious music and have fun with it at the same time.

Not that the music is a party record. This record is more haunting than anything else, with grooves that stalk you more than cater to your entertainment value system. Tracks like the title cut, "Mare Mosso" and "The Point" have wicked rhythm structures and the songs chase you around the room, seemingly held in check only by Truffaz's occasional trumpet minding. He doesn't overwhelm the songs, just sort of sits back in the track waiting for the right moment to toss out the right run or bleat. It's almost as if he's hearing the tracks along with you and opting to jump into the middle of the jam session when the mood strikes, and the album wears an earthy, more personal tone for it. The band (primarily Manu Codjia on guitar, Michael Benita on bass and Phillipe Garcia on drums and the aforementioned megaphone) was given a lot of leeway to play around with the arrangements, and it shows without coming off sloppy or unfelt.

All in all the album smokes, and in a day and age when jazz musicians continue to be grossly divided into traditionalists who are punished for playing against the company line of Coltrane/Davis or being criticized for dipping into the till that is smooth jazz, it's great to find a record that shows an artist taking chances with his art. This is particularly recommended for fans of Weather Report, Brad Mehldau and electric-era Chick Corea.

- Rambles
written by Scott Woods
published 6 April 2003

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