Erik Truffaz & Murcof: Being Human Being
Mundo Recordings

Being Human Being unites the talents of Swiss-born jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz and Mexican electronica artist Fernando Corona (aka Murcof), but it's not the first time the two have collaborated: they first performed together live in 2006 as a trio with percussionist Talvin Singh, and in 2008 the duo released an album called Mexico. It's also not the first time an instrumental combination of this kind has been adopted, as artists as varied as Miles Davis, Ben Neill, Mark Isham, and Nils Petter Molvær have blended the trumpet with electronics in their own ways over the course of many years. But Truffaz (credited with piano, trumpet, tuba, and voice) and Corona (electronics) do put a powerful spin on the “Future Jazz” concept in their hour-long outing, especially during those passages that burn with a fury reminiscent of the live sets Miles issued in the ‘70s.

First of all, however, a moment arises that calls to mind the stylistic soundworld of a different artist. By opening Being Human Being with a subdued ambient-styled piece (“Origin of the World”), the material evokes the New Age-inflected soundscaping of a Mark Isham album like Tibet. That opening piece is clearly designed to be a scene-setter for the subsequent “Warhol,” a fifteen-minute soundscape that pushes the music into a darker realm and provides Corona with ample opportunity to sculpt an ominous counterpoint to Truffaz's explorative blowing. While the trumpeter often assumes the role of lead soloist on the album, Corona's contributions certainly make as strong an impression on “Warhol” (the orchestral arrangement of strings and woodwinds he conjures for “Skin” is also memorable), and the presence of bass clarinet (simulated, presumably) within the piece's arrangement naturally brings Bitches Brew to mind, as does the electrified wah-wah treatment Truffaz applies to his horn.

Not surprisingly, the more memorable pieces are those that work up a powerful degree of intensity. With the trumpet bleating wildly and backed by aggressively pulsating rhythms, “Chaos” could easily pass for a Nils Petter Molvær track, even if its wah-wah roar again recalls Miles more than anyone else. At such moments, Being Human Being sounds as if Davis's playing has been stripped out of Agharta or Dark Magus and re-located within a prototypical Murcof setting. But Truffaz elevates the recording during its less aggressive moments, too, such as when his plaintive muted playing intensifies the impact of “The Eye” and “Skin.” In the final analysis, it's the emotional spectrum covered by Truffaz and Corona that argues most strongly on behalf of this collaborative outing.

January 2015