Jeff Coffin & The Mu’tet

Side Up
(Ear Up Records)

This sixth album by Jeff Coffin & The Mu’tet, a shape-shifting group led by a commanding saxophonist with a non-discriminating appetite for rock and jazz, shows that great things can happen when open-minded musicians collaborate in the compositional process. Coffin and his sidemen—Bill Fanning (trumpet), Chris Walters (piano/keyboards), Felix Pastorius (bass) and Roy “Futureman” Wooten (drums/percussion)—approached each tune with a mere skeleton of an outline, which was then worked out in rehearsals and pre-production to form a fleshed-out piece. The resulting music blends straightahead jazz with sounds from New Orleans, Africa, India, Brazil and beyond that reflect the Mu’tet’s diverse tastes and interests. The core group had plenty of help in constructing this global vibe from world-class guests Zakir Hussain on tabla, Radha Botofasina on harp, Ryoko Suzuki on harmonium, R. Scott Bryan on congas, James DaSilva on guitar, Pat Bergeson on harmonica, Herlin Riley on tambourine, Rod McGaha and Mike Haynes on trumpet, Roy Agee and Barry Green on trombone and Denis Solee and Evan Cobb on tenor saxophone. Coffin sounds confident and strong as ever, whether he’s playing soprano, alto, tenor or baritone saxophone, and his “electro-sax” (tenor run through an envelope-filter effect) solo on the funkified “Scratch That Itch” is an absolute gas. Side Up has its reflective moments, too, like when Coffin plays solo acoustic piano on the touching opening number, “And So It Begins.” Overall, this is a highly accessible program of music that will appeal to listeners who crave the sound of spontaneity.

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