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Beats for beatniks

The world, according to trumpeter Erik Truffaz, is a place of late-Fifties nostalgia where beatnik chicks lounge around, while the sound of “experimental” jazz wafts through the air, thick with the smoke of marijuana.

It’s no surprise, then, that the cover of his album Mantis has abstract organic shapes on it — after all, he is obviously inspired by the heyday of Miles Davis and Don Cherry, and in those days jazz record covers looked like the mobile sculptures of Alexander Calder. Unsurprisingly, Mantis is brought out by Blue Note and it seems an almost vintage item in its category, even though it’s a recent album.

Imagine Miles Davis playing with Jimi Hendrix. Imagine US3 playing with James Blood Ulmer — and that’s just track one!

Truffaz has named his band the Ladyland Quartet (in honour of Hendrix). The quartet, however, functions as a mere skeleton for the many layers of digital sampling and programming, and the collaboration the band has undertaken with practitioners of what’s considered world music.

And so, on Mantis there are also strains of Arabic (now obligatory in the trendiest of experimental music). Imagine Algerian rai meets trip-hop. Others have tried it, but somehow Truffaz and company really crack it.

But that’s not all. Truffaz seems to enjoy parodying the styles of the musical periods of Miles Davis. There are mellow hints of Sketches of Spain and there is some of the cacophony of Bitches’ Brew. But through all of it, the combination of such diverse inspirations makes Mantis truly original.

Erik Truffaz performs with the Ladyland Quartet at Tings an’ Times in Hatfield, Pretoria, on Tuesday April 2 from 9.30pm. Bookings: Tel: (012) 362 5537. He also appears at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town on the Bassline stage on March 30. Book at Computicket.

Creed: Weathered (Sony)

This Florida post-grunge trio sold nearly one million copies of Weathered in its first week of United States release. Something in singer Scott Stapp’s torturous rasp speaks to fashionably pessimistic teenagers as Kurt Cobain’s did to an earlier generation, though Creed’s take on the usual angsty “issues” is tempered by Stapp’s Christianity. The result, while still crushingly morose, is less inward-looking than contemporaries such as Bush and Pearl Jam. Even as guitarist Mark Tremonti gives it his doomy best, Stapp is looking ahead to a brighter future, sounding positively sunny — “Children don’t stop dancing/Believe you can fly” — on the lighter-waving Don’t Stop Dancing. References to God and “holy war” dot the metaloid Freedom Fighter and Signs, with Stapp rumbling on the latter: “Spiritual insinuations seem to shock our nation.” Meanwhile, My Sacrifice, which lumbers like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, delves into the relationship between God and men. As you’ll have guessed, there’s little room for levity, which takes its toll over the length of the CD, but this is worth a listen for those who want a dose of spirituality with their nu metal. — Caroline Sullivan

Zero 7: Simple Things (David Gresham)

It’s chill-out time with this low-tempo debut album from British music-engineer duo Zero 7, an electro-acoustic offering that blissfully mixes acid jazz, folky sounds and funk with laid-back beats and soulful vocals. It’s much more original than the slowed-down house tracks found on many other ambient albums. Don’t even try to find anything wrong with Simple Things — just lie back, relax and let it take you away. — Riaan Wolmarans

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