Sylvain Rifflet has been playing adventurous, somewhat rock-related jazz for since around 2000, and for much of the time has done so alongside a trumpeter. His emergence on the international scene in the first decade of this century was with the French quintet Rockingchair, where his co-leader was contemporary French trumpeter, Arielle Besson. They were awarded a 'Django d'Or' medal for their first album and subsequent releases have been well received.
On the 2019 album Troubadour, Rifflet is joined by the Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, who offers an equally sensitive and sonorous partnership as did Besson before him. Whereas his former bands were structured round a standard jazz format, usually quartet or quintet, on Troubador Rifflet focuses more on sonority, and additionally has created a single story line that runs through all the compositionsmusical stories based on the tales of the noble troubadours of France in the 11th to 13th centuries.
While this thematic element may be a get-out-of-jail card for many mid career solo artists, Rifflet uses the variety of motifs within the theme to bring a range of contrasting pieces. The elements of slow evolution and repetition are common to many pieces, and Arab influences lend different rhythms and approaches to color that radiate through the album, led always by the varied interweaving of trumpet and Rifflet's mellifluous clarinet and tenor sax. Finland's Tapani Rinne comes to mind with his similarly meditative, flowing pieces.
Percussion extends the range of colors, shifting from harsh high-hat to brushed cymbal and a palm-beaten and tapped udu, all handled by Benjamin Flament who also played on a commended previous album of Rifflet's. To this mix Rifflet adds the Shruti box, an Indian drone source played with his foot, and with the spice of the trumpet and reeds we have the heady, mesmeric atmosphere that is both light and yet opaque, hinting at the traveling troubadours, his medieval inspirations.
Sordello (da Goito); Eble (de Ventadour); Alberico (da Romano); Beatrice (de Die); Na (de Casteldoza); Le
murmure I'vo'bene; Bertran (de Born); Azalais (de Porcairagues); The Peacocks