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French Version

Truffaz Quartet delivers mix of muscle and fun in return to Lebanon

Lyric trumpeter keeps hungry Liban Jazz crowd in thrall in one-night-stand at Music Hall

Back in 2004, the year the Erik Truffaz Quartet delivered its blistering performance at the Byblos International Festival, the audience was estimated to be a miniscule 400-500 souls. Evidently political unrest has brought Lebanon's jazz aficionados back to their senses. Or perhaps they simply refuse to leave Beirut.

In any case Wednesday evening saw Music Hall, the Beirut venue for Karim Ghattas' Liban Jazz program, packed with appreciative bodies, all there for Truffaz. The 40-something Swiss-born horn player returned with a slightly different ensemble than the 2004 model, but he spun the same entertaining web of musical genres that his fans have come to demand.

Like so many lyric trumpeters before him, Truffaz has been dogged by comparisons to Miles Davis (1926-1991), the legendary innovator who forged the lyric sound and led the charge from Bee Bop through post-Bop forms to jazz fusion and hip hop. It seems the critical reductivism eventually rubbed Truffaz the wrong way. A few years ago he addressed it in his Web site.

"My band sounds like itself," he insisted. "Of course, I cannot say that Miles does not influence me ... But my band doesn't sound like Agharta or any of Miles' work. We are in 2002, inspired by the moods of our time, different grooves. It's true that there is a link between my music and the one from the seventies, but I try to look ahead instead of behind."

Truffaz' insistence on looking ahead and grooving with other contemporary styles - rather than caging himself within an ossified jazz tradition - might have been uttered by Miles himself.

Indeed, it's difficult to listen to Truffaz and his ensemble - long-time collaborator Marc Erbetta (percussion), Patrick Mueller (keyboards) and Christophe Chambet (electric bass) - and not hear him as a late-model successor to Miles' more rhythmic fusion experiments.

Truffaz' trumpet stylings, which clearly emulate modal forms of improvisation that Miles first explored in the early 1950s, move gracefully from the contemplative to the muscular while remaining remarkably consistent throughout a widely varied musical pastiche.

The range of elements that gets folded into the fusion mix vary from straight-up jazz rock to funk, from delicate horn-centred duets to numbers that move the bandleader to the sidelines - the electro-percussive games of Erbetta (who's as likely to be seen playing bare-handed as with drumsticks) and interludes of drum'n'bass.

It's in the percussion department that Truffaz added some local talent. Since his album "Mantis," he's pursued an interest in collaborating with musicians from the Middle East and North Africa - working with Tunisian oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem and vocalist Mounir Troudi.

Part-way through the Music Hall show, he called upon Beirut derbakeh hero Khaled Yassine to bring a layer of Levantine complexity to the percussion. For the balance of the show, and the quartet's extended encore, Yassine's dialogue with Erbetta was energetic and precise, if not as elaborate as it might have been. Not a debkeh rhythm to be heard, but the applause was cacophonous.

Marseille,04 11 2007
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