Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2016: Erik Truffaz is Kind of a Big Deal

Erik Truffaz is 56 years old. He plays the trumpet. He’s on Blue Note… France. He’s not hyped in the United States much. I only knew of him from copping his 2000 album, The Mask, from fellow KRTU radio host J.C. Pagan after he found the album while shopping in Brazil (if memory serves). The guy is a big deal, but one of those big deals that literally doesn’t in America. It should because if his Friday, July 8th performance at the Monument National for the Montreal Jazzfest is any proof, Truffaz’ quartet is one of the most forward-thinking groups in jazz today.

From the moment Benoît Corboz started playing the clavinet, this had all the feeling of a different kind of show. It’s hard not to think of Jason Lindner’s Now Vs. Now or Dave Douglas’ High Risk. The music pulses, rushes, exhilarates. Drummer Arthur Hnatek is a new addition to this band, appearing on Truffaz’ latest album, Doni Doni. Hnatek has been noted for his brilliance and versatility before, backing Tigran Hamasyan and his tricky style of play. Hearing him in this context is a surprise, not because it’s so unexpected, but because this group makes so many unexpected choices altogether.

This band is killer– Corboz on all form of keys is consistently fascinating. He can comps steadily and unceasingly, he can run over hill and dale if need be. His ear is perfect for the electric groove that Truffaz floats over. Marcello Guiliani is an exceptional bassist with a light touch. Hnatek fits in perfectly with these guys on drums and got more than a few chances to display his brilliance. However, Truffaz with his horn and numerous effect pedals is a pure ringleader. The modernism all through this set is just plain refreshing.

There were many moments when these guys just clicked. Everything taking a halt for Hnatek’s outstanding drum solo, the hang in the air for Corboz to rock out and propping a leg up on his bench and Guiliani doing one hell of a rootin’-tootin’ finger wave, Truffaz using his effect pedals to their full glory. It was a spectacular set where non-Francophone folks may not have understood any of the stage banter but the language of the music itself conveyed everything folks in that theater needed to know.

He’d do damn fine in the States.