Somnambule - Writing About Music

Erik Truffaz ~ Mantis

Erik Truffaz. I’ve caught him live twice. First time I grinned (and danced!) like an idiot for the pleasure of the experience; here was a band at ease with themselves, happy to experiment (as an encore there was an absolutely wicked drum and bass workout punctuated by an entrancing solo on rubber balloon) and very funky. A year later I was shocked to encounter a completely new band, the one found here on ‘Mantis’.

For anyone new to Truffaz the most notable element of the music may be the frequent presence of live drum'n'bass underpinning various flavours of jazz. So too with this album, track 1 kicks in with said breakbeat for a few bars, then the (double) bass kicks in, next a metallic Scofield-like guitar and at the minute mark Erik plays his first note. As the track draws to an end, the aftertaste is of mutating breakbeat, pathos-ridden trumpet, coruscating guitar. Track 2 slows the pace right down to create an effective mood piece, all double bass, space, held notes, plangent trumpet. After track 1 the sound is surprisingly traditional and here lies part of the fascination of this artist: he places gorgeous jazz that wouldn’t appear to be out of place on a 50s Blue Note session right besides contemporary dance rhythms... and he makes it work. Track 3 and we’re into a hiphop beat that speeds up into breakbeat halfway through. Key point is: these beats are convincing, organic, not programmed or seemingly bought off the shelf as with Molvaer, Hagans or St Germain.

‘Mantis’ is an extremely varied album: breakbeat workouts, a gentle guitar/trumpet duet, guitar mayhem, a megaphone disquisition (really), Arabic influences in the striking guest vocal of Mounir Troudi. Truffaz’s playing style is an interesting amalgam of the languorous side of Blue Note, the ‘every note counts’ of Miles Davis and the breathy softness of Jon Hassell. His sound is as warm and full of pathos as his lived-in face would suggest. He’s very generous in terms of the amount of space he gives to the band – lots of welcome solos from everybody. With Mantis Truffaz and his group successfully weave a surprisingly wide variety of influences into a cohesive tapestry all their own. I’m already looking forward to hearing the next album. (In the meantime any chance Mr Truffaz of releasing a live recording from your previous band?
Colin Buttimer
March 2002
Published by the BBC