Erik Truffaz isn't one for stereotypes. He has wielded his trumpet with everyone from electro-tabla wizard Talvin Singh to saxophone great Micheal Brecker with the Arabian influenced Hip Hop and dub sounds of Mounir Troudi finding a place somewhere in the melange.
That he worships at the altar of Miles Davis is worn proudly in every accent, every modal change, every wisp of breath from his lips. I don't mean he's a Miles clone. Far from it. Truffaz has devoured, imbibed and internalised the trumpet pioneer to such an extent that it has merged with his own style, giving it body, shape and even direction but never taking over. From desperate bop runs to the slightest whistle, Truffaz illustrated time and again that he is undoubtedly one of the modern European trumpet masters. In this performance he was joined by the rhythm section of Malcolm Braff on piano, Christophe Chambet on bass and Marc Erbetta on drums. In the newly renovated Alliance Francaise auditorium they ensured that mere jaw drops were too minor a reaction.
The hirsute Malcolm Braff would have probably looked more at home in a rock or blues band (read Canned Heat) but that didn't take anything away from his playing. Blending his considerable licks on the piano and kurzweil keyboard with a true improvisers spirit this big man could do no wrong. When he wasn't eliciting elongated clapping sessions from the audience with super fast finger work he played an understated role, adding just the right chords or scale runs, sometimes reminiscent of Thelonius Monk, another big hirsute piano player of old.
Christophe Chambet is no smiling assassin. He is one of those musicians who coaxes his skills and instrument with the deepest of scowls, his eyes sinking deep into their sockets. He played all over and all around the groove, visiting it once in a way and never sounding out of synch.
There are some musicians that make you squirm because they are so stratospheric, so mercurial and so brilliant. Marc Erbetta was one of those musicians. I'm still reeling from what he did behind those skins and HUGE Zildjian cymbals. I'm still trying to comprehend it all. When Miles said that good drummers would light a fire under the other musicians asses and push their limits he was absolutely right. Marc Erbetta did just that and then some.
This explosive quartet was joined for a couple of songs by Geeta Navale on Veena and a mridangam player whose name I can't remember. Geeta was abysmal, very rarely making her presence felt amidst so much genius. The mridangam player only shined on a slightly messy jughalbandi with Erbetta. Strangely, Erbetta seemed more at ease with the complex Indian time signatures.
It was toppermost till the fusion angle kicked in. We have so many brilliant Indian musicians. Perhaps next time a better match would have resulted in a better light.