Jeff Coffin and the Mu'tet's "Side Up"

Saxophonist Jeff Coffin and his “Mu’tet”, truly defy musical categories, and obliterate musical boundaries with their take-home-with-you compositions, their mind-bending solos and their swirling, danceable odd rhythms and exotic world music influences. Their previous effort, 2012’s “Into the Air” and 2011’s “Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet Live!”; (a double CD described as “over the top funky and burning with energy and killer tunes). Coffin & the Mu’tet throw down and bring out the music lover in everyone. The album was released on the Ear Up Records label, and recorded live at SPACE (Chicago/Evanston, IL) and at MOMO’S (Austin, TX) in 2010/2011. Coffin and the Mu’tet, (last seen at Yoshi’s on Fillmore a few months ago with special guests George Brooks on saxophone and bassist Kai Eckhardt joining for the encore), returns with a new album, “Side Up”, featuring his fellow Flecktone bandmate Roy “Futureman” Wooten, (replacing drummer Jeff Sipe from the previous album), Felix Pastorius(bassist with the Yellowjackets & son of Jaco Pastorius) on electric bass, Bill Fanning on trumpet/space trumpet and Chris Walters on acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3 organ & melodica.

As was the case with the previous Mu’tet CDs, Coffin collaborated with various members of the band during the writing of the music.“I came up with a basic working model for the tunes and then we fleshed it out from there”, say Coffin. “These guys are all composers and their ideas really spark some beautiful creative, compositional moments. We’re all open to the variety of possibilities that exist and I’m grateful for their input and creativity.”

Also joining the Mu’tet on Side Up are a number of equally world class, top call, guest musicians, including the Bay Area’s Zakir Hussein. From tabla to tambourine, harp to harmonium, horns to harmonica, this recording embodies Coffin’s musical vision as a bandleader, composer and instrumentalist. Coffin again reaches into a deep musical well with this astonishing new studio recording – and his always accessible, memorable, sometimes haunting, original compositions continue to be influenced by diverse cultures of music from around the globe.

For his review of Side Up, Brent Black of Critical Jazz aptly summed up some of the best tunes on the new album; “Scratch That Itch” is a funk laden jazz nasty that showcases the horn effects and may well be the signature tune for the release. The groove you can use might well be the Coffin tune “Steppin’ Up” which takes the changes from Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” and sets them to a new melody while dropping in a NOLA nasty second line back beat just to keep it interesting. Done everyday right? The deceptively subtle odd metered Low Hanging Groove has a smoldering blues like underbelly while the Caribbean type swing has a percussive pop and a true collective sound not JC and four after thoughts. Another true gem would be the closer “Albert’s Blue Sky” an exquisite open ended gospel influenced tune that touches the heart.

A virtually flawless release from one of the most in demand saxophonists and educators in the country. While the jazz genre may be in trouble, Jeff Coffin and artists like him will never let jazz die. You take what you know and what you like and you move past that, my theory as a writer and I think Jeff might agree not bad advice for a musician…” I couldn’t agree more. That being said, I really enjoyed the Mu’tet’s previous albums, 2008’s “Mutopia”, 2011’s “Live” and 2012’s “Into the Air”. Truly, there is not another band quite like Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet.