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Eric Truffaz Quartet
By Neil McGowan
Legendary French cross-genre trumpeter Eric Truffaz made an all-too-brief appearance with his quartet (Marcello Giuliani, bass; Marc Erbetta, drums; and Patrick Muller, Fender-Rhodes) at Chocolate this week. How would the diners at this louche, lounge-lizard venue take to Eric’s latest material... which extends his exploration of rock idioms and experimental sounds?

They lapped it up, and begged for more. “It’s great in Russia – people come up on stage afterwards and hug and kiss us, they’re so pleased we came” explained Marc Erbetta. “It’s so different here to anywhere else”.“Yeah, we were in Nizhny Novgorod six years ago... and like, they drive you around the same block where the venue is three times, and then they kinda hint there is some special reason they did that? It’s definitely different here!” added Marcello Giuliani.

The same personnel line-up has been playing together now for 6-7 years – since the time of their last appearance in Russia, on a venturesome itinerary featuring Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Yaroslavl and Arkhangelsk as well as Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. All their material is original – they don’t play “standards” or covers – and evolved in extensive jamming sessions in a joint creative process. All the titles – released on the Blue Note label, and available in Moscow through the online store – carry joint credits for all the band members. This Moscow gig at Chocolate was a one-off however – for which the band had come specially, largely in connection with latest album Walk Of The Giant Turtle.

Although it’s barely visible, there’s extensive use of live electronics in the set. Sounds are sampled live, and then set-down as a track over which further extemporisation takes place. Eric pushes the trumpet’s ranges to the limits, with unconventional techniques like extreme pedal notes, and extensive half-valving to produce softened textures with delicate timbres... and wired mutes that feed to the huge soundboard that masters the overall sound. Every single texture is there for a purpose, and the result is a luscious lyricism that makes the horn sing seductively above a delicate matt-weave of sound.

The material is eclectic... hints of Miles and Zorn peer through, mixed-up deliciously with rocky rhythms or laid-back cool, free-form numbers follow on from melodically wistful explorations. “This is the good side of globalisation – we can mix it up however we want, a little of this and that” says Marc. The result is like a warmly-blended scotch – soft-centred, subtle, but with a unique identity of its own, rather than an uncomfortable mix of disparate parts. Ambient features too, especially in the final number – mixing samples from the natural world (frog-calls, Eric’s own voice) with trumpet-generated whale-calls, keyboard layovers and a final rocky adventure kicked into motion by Marc Erbetta’s joyful swingy drum-riff. Whole-tone scales added an other-worldly ethos of pointilliste mellifluousness – like Debussy after a few absinthes.

Chocolate is a pricey venue – the interior is an instant guide to the menu-prices. But you don’t have to dine, or even sit, and drinks at the bar for those who chose to chill-out on the comfy sofas are priced to encourage extensive lounging. The venue’s staff went out of their way to accommodate all-comers – whether the diners plunging into vintage champagnes over their exotic mains, or the beardy jazz-buffs cradling a four-dollar beer around the bar for the 90-minute set.

Come back soon, guys.

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