A recurring theme in Jazz Review a couple of years ago was 'NuJazz'. The editorial stance was very much anti, and that often sat uncomfortably with me, being partial as I was to some of the exciting sounds this sub-genre could offer.
A dull record is a dull record regardless of genre however, and I found myself struggling to really like this effort by Truffaz...
BLUE NOTE (563576)
Saloua; Big Wheel; Whispering; Yabous; Gedech; Dubaphone; Ines; Tantrik; Ghost Drummer; Le Soleil D’Eline; Spirale; Et La Vie Continue.
Erik Truffaz (t, elec); Manu Codija (g, elec); Michel Benita (b, elec); Phillipe Pion Garcia (d, elec); Mounir Troudi Nya (v).
Recorded September 2004.
This isn’t the place for a written response to our editor’s recent critique of Nujazz, and I’m not entirely sure I’d want to make a robust defence of this rather patchy sub-genre even if it were, but Erik Truffaz is one musician associated with the style that I have lots of time for. Early Blue Note discs such as ‘The Mask’, ‘The Dawn’ and ‘Bending New Corners’ pitted his formidable Miles-ian chops against a Rhodes textured backdrop that bristled with the excitement of the emergent drum’n’bass scene. The groups stripped down grooves and rapper Nya’s vocals no doubt suggested to some critics that this couldn’t be real jazz, but shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow the pretty uncompromising straight-ahead playing that the trumpeter and pianist Patrick Muller laid down.
That early promise seemed to dissipate in 2001 with ‘Mantis’ and then the slightly bombastic fusion of ‘Walk Of The Giant Turtle’, but now Truffaz is back and taking a further new direction with ‘Saloua’. Moving closer to the more electric conception of Nujazz shared by Molvaer and Wesseltoft, the new disc also takes a detour into Dhaffer Youssef and Magic Malik territories to bring some new ethnic spice. From the outset Arab/North African influences are keenly felt - part topical and part historical I’d guess, given French interest and influence in these cultures. Nya makes his return on ‘Big Wheel’, closer to Dub/Reggae than anything than anything Truffaz has hitherto been noted for, and his lyrics lack none of the old existential dread. ‘Dubaphone’ takes the style even further into post-Laswell waters, whilst ‘Ghost Drummer’ repeats the rock-tinged mistakes of ‘Giant Turtles’, guitarist Manu Codija sounding uncomfortably close to Eivind Aarset’s sound most of the time, and providing a far less satisfactory sparring partner for Truffaz than Muller.
Heavy use of samples on mood pieces such as ‘Whispering’ take things even further from the fundamentally acoustic music of those earlier discs, but whenever Truffaz plays his horn the lineage is pretty clear. If I sound slightly disappointed with ‘Saloua’ then it’s relative. This music has much to offer on its own terms, but it’s unlikely to win over Nujazz’s growing band of critics. Other than the killer groove of ‘Tantrik’, which could run all day, it also lacks the confident savvy that promised so much five years ago. Obituary notices for Erik Truffaz may nevertheless be premature.
(Jazz Review, June 2005)