As the season winds down in South Florida, it’s a good time to catch up on what some of the Miami’s local favorites have been up to. Take Alfredo Triff, for instance — our town’s resident philosopher-king, MDC philosophy professor, and all-around dynamic jazz violinist.
This year, Triff produced the fifth album of his musical compositions, titled Parodies. It features him on the violin, backed by an octet composed of folks with whom he has been riffing with on-and-off for the past dozen years.
And after producing several previous jazz albums focusing on vocalists — albums where the violin took a back seat — with Parodies, Triff decided to bring both that instrument and his own playing front and center.
“My violin was screaming for my attention,” Triff says. “I felt it was time to come out of my cocoon and see if I still had the chops.”
And now? “Yeah, both my violin and I are happy.”
The album had its coming-out party at WDNA to a standing-room-only crowd last November. It is an hour’s listening with 17 tracks: Each of them, according to Triff, offers yet another look at the kaleidoscope of parodies that makes up life itself.
Although trained in Havana’s renowned Conservatory of Music from an early age, Triff regards his most formative musical years as those spent working amid the Havana and then New York City avant-garde jazz scene in the 1980s. (That's where he also started his long-running collaboration with Kip Hanrahan, the influential, experimental composer/producer who mixes up jazz, blues, and Latin music to create his unique sound.) It’s no surprise, then, that this album, like so much of Triff’s previous work, is conceptual.
“Still,” Triff says, “there is a limit to how much music can be pushed or pulled to serve any narrative. The music itself takes over, like the images themselves do in a movie. What I wanted to do in Parodies is give the listener a menu of colors.
“There is always a tension in my work between my love of the lyrical and the virtuoso. I’m pleased at the balance I delivered in Parodies.”
Still, one could argue that in both musical themes and track/album titles, Triff is drawn to the darker side of the palette. In the past few years, Triff produced Boleros Perdidos (Lost Love Songs) and Miami Untethered, both of which revolve around what he calls “nighttime human beings exploring impossible love.” And now there is Parodies.
“I’m not embittered,” he says, “but I’ve come to that point in life when I am well aware of the tragic-comic side of life.”
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Indeed, much of Triff’s life has been about balancing apparent opposites. At the university in Havana, his musical mentor would tease by calling him “the best mathematician among violinists and the best violinist among mathematicians.” After Triff moved to the States, he paid for his doctoral studies in philosophy at the University of Miami through an orchestra scholarship. And there is Triff’s great love of Schubert’s song cycles, even as jarring phrases are standard in Triff’s own compositions.
The balancing won't end anytime soon. Triff already has plans for a sixth album. He’ll go back to Boleros, writing for vocalist Xiomara Laugart, but working electronics into her languid sound. Triff’s violin will take a back seat again, but not for long. He's already mulling album number seven – violin gone funky.
— Elizabeth Hanly, artburstmiami.com
Parodies is available from CDBaby, iTunes, and Amazon.