If you are known by the company you keep then jazz triple threat Jeff Coffin is doing o.k. and...is incredibly busy! This multi-dimensional saxophonist works as a stellar instrumentalist, harmonically adventurous composer and perhaps most importantly an accessible educator. Oh, it just so happens he has done rather high profile and long term stints with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and most recently with the Dave Matthews Band. It is perhaps working as the proverbial by product of his own artistic experience that his latest release "Into The Air" is set to drop on 09/04/12.
A solid lineup helps as Coffin put it make music that he considers not so easy to play sound easy. The band includes:
Jeff Sipe: drums and percussion.
Kofi Burbridge: piano, keyboards and flute.
Bill Fanning: trumpet and space trumpet.
Felix Pastorius: electric bass.
Lionel Loueke, Caleb Mitchell and Gavin Knight.
Jeff Coffin want to give you something different, music hitting on a visceral and cerebral plane. Coffin is looking for the unexpected and seems to have nailed it with "Into The Air." To begin, the Mu'tet name was inspired by the Shelley poem, "Mutability." Coffin had a musical epiphany while attending North Texas State ( now University of North Texas) where he was introduced to African music and artists such as King Sunny Ade. The ceremonial aspect of the African music which has ceremonial music for virtually every aspect of life combined with listening to four and five year old African children singing in polyrhythms made a lasting impact felt in Coffin's music today.
"Into The Air" is a transformation of Coffin's talents into a myriad of performance pieces that run the musical table from a riff on the blues to a more free form Albert Ayler and then toss in the phenomenal Beninese singer-guitarist Lionel Loueke and you have a release that doesn't transcends traditional genre into something more organic as the music seems to develop its own pulse. "A Half Sleep" is an aptly titled and has that all too familiar feel of the end results of a long night of self inflicted revelry. A soulful riff wandering somewhere between R&B and the blues and showcases Felix Pastorius, Kofi Burbridge, and Bill Fanning while Jeff Sipe owns the pocket on drums. Coffin's lyrical direction on this tune will touch your heart and set your hair on fire at the same time. "U Don't Say" has Coffin working out on the pedaled bass clarinet for some slinky jazz nasty that you would be hard pressed to find done better anywhere. "Old Glass" is the shortest tune here but in this case less is absolutely more. Big harmonies and ambient effects with the intent of the melody notes to change the harmonic direction. According to Coffin the influence here is that musical happy place between Radiohead and George Harrison's "Wah Wah." Another memorable moment as there are simply far too many to list here would be "8 Bit Goggles" in which the boogaloo lines are constructed from a riff by the great keyboardist John Medeski. Jeff Coffin and the Mu'tet go back and hit the early fusion Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock vibe which lays in perfectly with the ebb and flow of the release.
If you are tired of the mundane, the commercial, the annoying predictability you are either finding on line or at your local record store if you are lucky enough to have one then "Into The Air" is for you. Rich sonic colors, texture and rhythmic harmonic movement that will have you coming back to this release over and over. Everything is on point here. Easily on my year end best of list!
Photo Credit to Greg Kessler.