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Erik Truffaz

Swiss-born trumpeter/composer Erik Truffaz plays a nu-jazz meld of post-bop, modal, fusion, electronica, hip-hop, rock, pop, and global folk traditions. 1999's Bending New Corners showcased the deep influence of Miles Davis' second quintet and electric recordings, and 2001's Revisité and Mantis threaded in drum'n'bass, grime, acid house, and hip-hop rhythms via post-bop. 2003's Walk of the Giant Turtle wove rockist funky fusion into mutant dancefloor jams, and 2007's Arkhangelsk reflected the influence of Jon Hassell's Fourth World music and pop, with guest Ed Harcourt. 2010's In Between featured singer Sophie Hunger on several cuts; 2012's El Tiempo de La Revolución mixed electric jazz, '80s soul, and Nordic cool; 2016's Doni Doni was recorded in collaboration with Malian singer Rokia Traore, and 2019's Lune Rouge considered astronomy through murky 21st century jazz. 2023's Rollin' and Clap! offered Truffaz's interpretations of 20th century movie themes. Truffaz was born in Switzerland and raised in France. His father played saxophone in a dance band and exposed him to music early. He started playing trumpet in grade school. At ten, he began performing with his father's band and was soon performing with other bands in the region until he was 16 and heard Miles Davis' seminal Kind of Blue. The great jazz trumpeter's music inspired him to learn more, and he set off to study music theory, composition, and history at the Conservatoire. His performance repertoire expanded to include works by Mozart and Verdi, and he performed as a member of L'Orchestre de Suisse. While attending university, he learned to compose and play jazz seriously and founded Orange, the first group to perform his compositions. Among its members was drummer Marc Erbetta, who played with Truffaz for decades. Truffaz delved deeply into Davis' work and musical example. As enamored as he was with Kind of Blue, it was the second quintet's discography and the electric recordings from In a Silent Way, that obsessed him. He began developing his own approach to the music Davis pioneered. In addition to formidable hard bop and modal chops, the trumpeter was captivated by folk traditions from Africa, South America, Mexico, and the Middle and Far East. When Orange split, Truffaz worked to develop his fusion artistry but was also deeply grounded in hard and post-bop. In 1991, France's Jury du Concours National de la Defense awarded him the 1991 Prix Special, the country's coveted jazz award. He made his debut appearance at that year's Montreux Jazz Festival. Within three years, Truffaz was leading a quintet and released his debut album, Nina Valeria, on Switzerland's Elephant label. The album drew heavily on the influence of Davis' second quintet and the trumpeter even emulated his tone, with and without mute. In 1994, Truffaz's quintet began a two-year-long tour of Europe, Russia, and Brazil, thanks to a grant from the Pro Helvetia Foundation. In late 1996, Truffaz signed with Parlophone/EMI and recorded Out of a Dream, his second album. Still acoustic save for Marcello Giuliani's bass, the music offered startling maturity. Truffaz found a post-bop voice of his own. His compositions stood head and shoulders above those on his debut; the band, after touring for years, was tight and communicative. 1998's The Dawn changed the game wholesale. The trumpeter's band -- a quartet for this date -- cut eight original tunes with spoken word by Swiss-born rapper, singer, and clarinetist Nya. The set's title track was his first to include the use of electric piano. In 1999, Truffaz released Bending New Corners, a somewhat straight-ahead jazz session with electric embellishments on tracks such as "More." On one level, the album looked squarely in the rearview, but the junglist drumming and rap in the title track and two others, plus sonic abstraction, canny production, and funky grooves on "Minarets," all hinted at this group's gelling identity. Blue Note Records -- also owned by Parlophone -- signed Truffaz in early 2000 and wasted no time compiling tracks from his first three EMI France albums. In addition, his new label subsequently commissioned remixes from Mobile in Motion's Pierre Audetat and Christophe Calpini, Alex Gopher, Bugge Wesseltoft, and Pierre Henry for 2001's Revisité. Mantis also arrived in 2001, a seamless, wildly creative exercise in spacious, greasy grooves performed by a handpicked dream cast that included bassist Michel Benita, drummer Philippe Garcia, and electric guitarist Manu Codjia. Mantis revealed the expansion and change in Truffaz's music. As evidence, the band re-recorded the title track from Nina Valeria with guest artist Anouar Brahem playing oud. "Magrouni" offered live junglist drumming and breaks, squalling electric guitars, and Tunisian Mounir Troudi's vocals. The album won an abundance of positive critical notice internationally. The creative floodgates opened further for Truffaz. In 2003, both Walk of the Giant Turtle and Bending New Corners were released on Blue Note in the U.S. The former featured the trumpeter's longstanding quartet -- drummer Erbetta, guitarist/keyboardist Patrick Muller, and bassist Giuliani. Its first track, the two-part "Scody," showcased the band's ambient side and countered with funky distortion and improvisation before concluding with a futurist disco vamp. The whomping, filthy, angular grooves on "King B" seemingly updated Davis' voodoo funk from Agharta and Pangea for the 21st century. It is one of Truffaz's most enduring LPs. 2005's Saloua revealed the bandleader's ever-expanding interest in hip-hop, dub, electronica, and Middle Eastern modalism. Nya and Troudi were both present, alternately fronting the returning quartet of Benita, Codjia, and Garcia. A winding snake of an album, critics remarked in wonder at Truffaz's ability to perfectly balance tradition with innovation. 2007's Arkhangelsk, titled after a city in Russia, was recorded with his quartet and vocalists Nya, Ed Harcourt, and iconic French pop singer/songwriter Christophe. The album's diverse palette of compositions offer a smart use of groove, melody, improvisation, texture, and solid songwriting. Interestingly, the production recalls two of Truffaz's European contemporaries, Arve Henriksen and Nils Petter Molvaer. The trumpeter released three duo titles in 2008. The first, Paris, with vocalist/human beatboxer Sly Johnson, moved across soul, pop, vanguard doo wop, and hip-hop. The second, Benares, showcased singer Indrani Mukherjee in a quartet with tabla master Apurba Mukherjee, Truffaz, and pianist Malcolm Braff. The third, Mexico, was cut in collaboration with Tijuana's Murcof, a glitchy, classically influenced ambient laptop artist and producer. All three releases were combined in a double set titled Rendez-vous: Paris, Benares, Mexico. In 2011, Truffaz issued In Between, one of his most adventurous outings, featuring Giuliani, Erbetta, and Benoit Corboz (who replaced Muller on keyboards). The set also featured vocalist Sophie Hunger on two tracks, one a cover of Bob Dylan's "Dirge." Musically, Truffaz and his collaborators traveled across dark ambient on opener "The Secret of the Dead Sea," as well as modern jazz funk, improvisation, and sophisticated pop on the two titles with Hunger. 2012's moody, musically and sonically labyrinthine El Tiempo de la Revolución delivered compositions by each of the quartet's members and vocals on three tracks by Ann Aaron, a theatrical pop singer. Giuliani produced her 2011 album Dogs in Spirit and Truffaz played on it. The trumpeter collaborated with Murcof again on 2014's Being Human Being. More a work of trippy musique concrete than jazz, the pieces were all worked out by the pair and recorded without gaps, segueing into one another seamlessly. In addition to trumpet, Truffaz played tuba and worked with his own undulating electronic palette. Select tracks included participation from cellist Catherine Delpeuche and clarinetist Nina Truffaz. In 2016, Doni Doni, a double length collaboration between Truffaz and acclaimed Malian singer songwriter Rokia Traore, was released, with new drummer/percussionist Arthur Hnatek replacing Erbetta. The four songs with Traore were commissioned to accompany South African troupe Vuyani. French-Malian rapper Oxmo Puccino also assisted on a track. The music ran across fusion, pop, electronica, and ambient. Lune Rouge (Red Moon) appeared in 2019, and underscored Truffaz's musical trademark: disparate trumpet sounds, sparse beats, drama, and Eastern overtones. Recorded by the quartet, the wildly diverse set included a guest spot by Jose James on the original "Reflection" (co-written by him and the band) and Andrina Bollinger singing "She's the Moon" featuring original lyrics by the singer and Franziska Staubli. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Truffaz was approached by film director Marie-France Brière. The pair collaborated when Truffaz composed the score for her documentary Les Îles de Napoleon. She requested he perform musical themes from French cinema to close the Angoulême film festival. After working with his quartet to reinterpret these themes, Truffaz became so enamored with the process that he proposed a two-album conception to Blue Note and they agreed. In April 2023, Truffaz released Rollin', the first installation. Only Giuliani remained from his previous quartet. The new group included drummer/percussionist Raphaël Chassin, keyboardist Alex Anérile, and guitarist Mathis Pascaud. Truffaz chose themes by some of his favorite composers including Nino Rota, Michel Magne, Ennio Morricone, and Alain Romans. Actress and partner Sandrine Bonnaire guested on "Cesar et Rosalie" and singer Camélia Jordana delivered "One Silver Dollar." Clap!, the second part of the film themes project, was released in October 2023.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo


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