To jazz lovers the name of saxophonist and flutist Jeff Coffin should not be new. In addition to his 14 years spent as a member of Bela Fleck’s band, Coffin has worked with others like Dave Matthews and spent a lot of time working in studios for artists like Delbert McClinton, Brooks & Dunn and Marc Broussard. For this three-time Grammy winner, Coffin’s newest recording is a two-disc set gathered from live concerts in Illinois and Texas with his musicians while on tour in 2010 and 2011.
Coffin uses two different bands on the recordings. Among the musicians working with Coffin are drummer Jeff Sipe, who has worked with the Aquarium Rescue Unit, blues woman Susan Tedeschi, jazz pioneer Greg Osby and Project Z, among others,- and bassist Felix Pastorius, who is the son of famed bassist Jaco Pastorius and himself has worked with Coffin since 2002 as well as with others like Cindy Blackman. Others include keyboardist Kofi Burbridge who has worked with artists Derek Trucks and Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Bill Fanning who has worked with George Garzone and George Russell, and guitarist and newcomer Mike Seal.
Captured here are eight compositions, six Coffin originals and two co-composed pieces, on which all of the musicians get the opportunity to stretch out, a luxury not usually afforded in the studio. What is here is some of the best fusion heard in many a year. That Coffin, who is continually underrated as a saxophonist, blazes a mean trail, comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with his Flecktones work. The compositions themselves fall into a lovely post-Brecker Brothers vibe, both in terms of their construction and the electronic elements both Coffin and his trumpeter utilize. Think Heavy Metal Bebop, but not just limited to wah-wah pedals. In bringing out the hardware both horn players find ways to incorporate it into the music in exciting yet musical ways and never turn it on the electricity for the sake of electricity.
The biggest surprise of the recording is just how musical Pastorius is as a bassist. You can figure that he’d work his butt off to have endless technique, nobody wants to live in the shadow of their father, and while young Pastorius is definitely developing great technical capabilities, it’s his lovely phrases, both as a soloist, as on “Al’s Greens,” or when playing lines behind the soloists, that dazzle.
Highlights on the discs include “Tag,” an ultra bopish ramble, "Move Your Rug," a nice second-line throw-down, and “The Evil Boweevil,” on which Coffin blows some of the hottest saxophone heard since "Funky Sea Funky Dew." What it will take for Coffin to get the recognition he’s due will most probably just take time, but releases like this one, as a leader, will greatly push his street cred up greatly.