May 22, 2024

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Interview with Erik Truffaz: The very essence of life to bloom again each spring: Video

Interview with Jazz legendary trumpeter and composer Erik Truffaz. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music.  How exactly did your adventure take off? 

Erik Truffaz: – I grew up in the French suburbs near Geneva, in the countryside where Voltaire used to spread his ideas a few centuries ago. My father, who still plays the saxophone, guided and supported me in my musical beginnings.

I joined the village brass band at the age of 6 and performed intermittently alongside my father, who had a dance orchestra. I realized, before turning 10, that performing on stage was a rare and precious thing. To learn the trumpet, I picked up tunes on the radio and improvised on jazz records, including Miles Davis’s A Kind of Blues, and Louis Armstrong. Very quickly I felt that it was a world that could nurture me on a spiritual level and help me materially too. At the age of 13, I formed a dance band with local friends – we covered French and international pop hits.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

ET: – Sound is elusive. You have a certain sound in your mind, you play and then 20 years later, you realize that you’re closer and closer to what you had imagined, and there’s a moment where your sound becomes a reflection of your soul. You can’t choose your sound, like you can’t choose your voice.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

ET: – I practice with a metronome, I play on the harmonies of standard tunes, and I note the solos of the artists I admire. Nothing very original, but the more serious the work, the more opportunities there are to progress and, as Baudelaire said, “although one’s heart is in the work, art is long, and time is short”. Hence, I work very regularly.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so, why?

ET: – Yes, I’m more confident in myself; I’m aware of my shortcomings, and I’ve turned them into qualities.

JBN: – Excuse me, you are one of the first to involve rap artists in jazz performances. Why? Do you like it, or do you just want to keep pace with the 21st century?

ET: – I like it when a voice emerges after a few instrumentals on my albums. I also like that about Chet Baker or Louis Armstrong. Since I don’t sing, I call on singers.

Moreover, being influenced by one’s time – like a tree that blooms each spring – seems to me a self-evident fact, it’s the very essence of life to bloom again each spring.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts, and studio sessions over the years?

ET: – This question is a chapter in itself. I have memories of magical concerts where the level of spirituality was the same on stage as in the audience. I remember that in Montreux during an improvised concert with Bugge Wesseltoft, I suddenly heard Charles Lloyd, who’d joined us – something he does very rarely – for an hour of total improvisation – a collective meditation in a way. I also ask the band to improvise a track on stage sometimes, which can lead to rare and precious things.

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

ET: – I find it hard to be interested in music when I can’t feel its soul. The records that I love, whatever the style of music, are sublimated by a soulful element – and that’s what I try to achieve throughout the recording process. As for the intellect, it’s the process prior to the recording that enables you to make choices about musical form. Afterwards, the result doesn’t belong to you completely. It’s only after you’ve recorded that you notice if there’s soul in a track, and if so, you’re delighted. If there’s no spirituality, you’ll hear it very quickly and you won’t keep the recording. This process is nothing new: just listen to alternate takes by many bands and you’ll understand the choices that were made.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

ET: – We’re mirrors, so the question doesn’t even arise! But yes, of course. The day I’m no longer able to give and receive this emotion, I’ll stop performing.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

ET: – All you need to do is invent your own music. If you’re reinterpreting a composition that already exists, you should reinvent it by giving it a particular color. You should work on the form, then the content will be self-evident. It’s research, intellectual work. Playing standard tunes like the great masters in the history of jazz did so brilliantly doesn’t suit me. When the form shares common features with music that you perceive in the present, a bridge is built, which creates an opening for people who don’t know jazz. This is what happened with our album Bending New Corners, which enabled young people to focus on this music and then go on to discover Miles [Davis] or [John] Coltrane. This is something I’ve heard regularly over the last 20 years.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

ET: – The spirit is what helps you choose and create. The heart and the spirit are one and the same and give meaning to life. And when you manage to sublimate this with music, it’s just wonderful! Whether it’s at the level of a great master like John Coltrane or at my level, sincerity is what authenticates artistic expression.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

ET: – I’d like TV to broadcast instrumental music and to better support jazz and improvised music. When I was a child, the Montreux concerts were broadcast on Swiss TV, and this deeply touched and influenced me. The mystery of the world arrived through this small black and white screen.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

ET: – Here’s what I was listening to yesterday, Debussy’s preludes, Shubert’s and Beethoven’s quartets, Louis Armstrong, Miles [Davis], Otis Redding, Pink Floyd…

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where would you really want to go, and why?

ET: – In Paris in the last century, at the time of Satie, Proust, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, or in New York for the birth of bebop.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

ET: – I try to transmit aspirations, spirituality, love, and kindness through the sound of my trumpet.

JBN: – Do you like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

ET: – Yes, so far, the questions have been open and intelligent enough for me to appreciate them!

JBN: – Thank you so much for your answers. Jazz is my life! I really like your music without rap and enjoy it!

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert in your career? Finally, what do you expect from this interview?

ET: – We’ve already given concerts in support of causes such as the reconstruction of houses in an area affected by an earthquake. If our conversation can develop the curiosity of some people towards my music, I’d be delighted, but my way of life is to stay on the lookout and to be always surprised by what happens to me and for this it’s better not to expect anything. Hence, anything can happen, waiting often blocks the doors of hope.

Interview by Simon Sarg

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here.

Les déambulations jazz d'Erik Truffaz

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