Eric Truffaz | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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By some lights, the purpose of improvised music is to reflect the moment--not only the current moment in the improviser's life but also his historical moment, his time and place. And by that standard, French jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz's latest disc, Mantis (Blue Note), succeeds wildly. Though he now lives in Switzerland, Truffaz came of age in Paris, and his music retains that city's cosmopolitan style and unique mix of bustle and insouciance. Latter-day Paris is permeated by Arab and North African flavors (much as Latin rhythms have suffused the signature sounds of New York and Los Angeles), and Truffaz has absorbed these influences: Tunisian vocalist Mounir Troudi and oud legend Anouar Brahem both guest on Mantis. But he also includes whiffs of Parisian dance music and stabs of the electroacoustic fusion rampant in European new-jazz circles, and the spirit of Miles Davis--whose film music of the 50s and Africanized electric music of the 70s struck still-remembered chords with French listeners--hovers constantly over Truffaz's sound and phrasing. (About the only thing missing in this stew is the typical French chanson--but that's not to say it's missed.) No stranger to electronic effects or sampled rhythms, Truffaz takes a counterintuitive approach to each in this quartet: he keeps his trumpet unplugged, leaving the electronics to versatile jazz-rock guitarist Manu Codjia, and instead of using a drum machine he occasionally asks drummer Philippe Garcia--another electroacoustic fusioneer, with a group called Cosmik Connection--to mimic or adapt programmed beats. Far more adventurous than his countrymen in St. Germain and by turns more forward-looking and more traditional than Norwegian experimenter Nils Petter Molvaer, Truffaz the trumpeter maintains a jazz sensibility atop his arrangements, no matter how many other idioms he's layered into their foundations. He's traveling with the Mantis group--also his regular working band--on this tour, his first of the States in several years. Wednesday, April 24, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mephisto.

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