Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet – Side Up (2014)
“This group can be anything we want it to be. This is not a quartet, a quintet or a septet…it’s a Mu’tet!”– JC
“The mission is to hit you right between the eyes with a harmonic firestorm of sonic fury and rhythms you simply can’t get out of your head. Mission accomplished! A virtually flawless release…stupid good!” – criticaljazz.com
ABOUT: JC & THE MU’TET – SIDE UP
JEFF COFFIN, saxophonist with Dave Matthews Band – and 3x Grammy Award winner with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (1997-2010), mu’tates once again with his unclassifiable, genre-smashing, all-star band, JEFF COFFIN & the MU’TET, on their new Ear Up Records recording SIDE UP.
The members of the Mu’tet are some of the finest musicians on the planet – fellow Flecktone, and 5x Grammy Award winner, ROY ‘FUTUREMAN’ WOOTEN on acoustic drums, FELIX PASTORIUS (bassist with the Hipster Assassins & son of Jaco Pastorius) on electric bass, BILL ‘THE SPACEMAN’ FANNING on trumpet/space trumpet & CHRIS WALTERS on acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3 organ & melodica.
As was the case with the previous Mu’tet CD ‘INTO THE AIR’, 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. 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.” – JC
Joining the Mu’tet on SIDE UP are a number of equally world class, top call, guest musicians. 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.
All the photographs contained on this project (as well as previous recordings, INTO THE AIR, MU’TOPIA & BLOOM) were taken by Jeff. The CD artwork on SIDE UP is all street graffiti from Brasil. For more on Jeff’s photography, please visit www.jeffcoffinphotography.com
“…twisting the mind like a metaphysical puzzle.”
JEFF COFFIN – Yamaha saxophones, electro-sax, percussion
ROY ‘FUTUREMAN’ WOOTEN– Schleisman drums, percussion
FELIX PASTORIUS – 6 string electric bass, Fender jazz bass
BILL ‘THE SPACEMAN’ FANNING – trumpet & space trumpet
CHRIS WALTERS – acoustic piano, Wurlitzer, B-3, Fender Rhodes, melodica
ZAKIR HUSSAIN – tabla
HERLIN RILEY – tambourine
RADHA BOTOFASINA – harp
RYOKO SUZUKI – harmonium
JAMES DaSILVA – guitar
R. SCOTT BRYAN – congas
PAT BERGESON – harmonica
ROD McGAHA – trumpet
MIKE HAYNES – trumpet
ROY AGEE – trombone
BARRY GREEN – trombone
DENIS SOLEE – tenor sax
EVAN COBB – tenor sax
ABOUT THE MU’SIC…
01) AND SO IT BEGINS (for Freddie & Ilana)
I wrote this for a couple great friends of mine, Freddie & Ilana, who were getting married at our house in Nashville in 2013. It has a number of meanings to me. Two weeks before they were to be married, Ilana was diagnosed with breast cancer (she’s now cancer free!!!) and so they were starting a number of journeys together. My wife and I had only been in our house a couple months and she was in India at the time so it’s for Freddie & Ilana but also a little for her and us and the journeys that lie ahead. It seemed like an appropriate way to start the recording. It’s my solo piano debut! This is the piano we have inside our house and it was made in 1904 – it sounds old and seems to have its own story to tell. I left all the windows open when I recorded it too…listen for the birds!! One actually took a solo right after my last note.
02) PEACE NOW (for Bert Wilson)
This is dedicated to my dear friend and amazing, wonderful, inspiring saxophonist Bert Wilson, who passed in 2013 in his mid 70’s. He was afflicted with polio at the age of 4 and was in a wheelchair from that time until he passed. He was also Lenny Pickett’s teacher (sax player on SNL/Tower of Power, etc…) Sitting with and next to Bert and hearing him play was like sitting at the feet of a great yogi master. His understanding of music and breath and emotion and power and sound and texture and feel was mind-boggling. He was a unique individual with amazing stories to tell and rolling laughter that came from the deepest part of his heart. I met him in 2006/2007 and he was a great friend, mentor and inspiration from the moment I laid ears on him! The title comes from what he would say when he got off the phone. He never said goodbye to me…he would always just say ‘peace now.’ I thought that was a beautiful sentiment. I happen to agree. I also have a wonderful harpist, Radha Botofasina – who studied with Alice Coltrane – on this track. Wow, I love the harp!
03) LOW HANGING FRUIT
The title of this piece comes from when I was first working on it and all I had was a bass figure (titled Bass Figs). The melody sprung up from that and the name is a play on the original title. This is NOT an easy tune to play and we were not sure we were gonna get it right. The band rose to the occasion and this ended up being a smoking track! Futureman and I put down the handclaps later and he played some very cool percussion on it. I love the way the tune sort of rolls into itself. Bill Fanning is my shadow on trumpet on this and every other tune. It feels like a swarm of birds flying together the way he is so with me on the parts. At times, I’m not sure if I’m hearing him or me!!
04) STEPPIN’ UP
This is my idea of a New Orleans brass band version of Giant Steps! I had this idea years ago while teaching. Given that the progression of Giant Steps is so daunting to every player who improvises, why not make it FUN to play instead of NOT FUN to play?!? I wrote a contrafact (a new melody over existing chord changes) and added a modal bridge for a ‘breath’ between the rapidly moving and angular chord changes. I got a few of my favorite Nashville horn players to play with us on this track. We solo together and it’s really a fun way to realize and enjoy this piece of music. It’s a swampy, cool, hip way to play what can be very difficult chord changes. I like to think John Coltrane would have dug another approach! I also enlisted the legendary New Orleans drummer/tambourine player Herlin Riley to play tambourine on this track to give it an even deeper groove and authenticity. Check out Chris Walters on the Hammond B-3 solo!
05) AS YOU WERE
This is a melody I came up with and Felix helped put together some extended harmony. I had the idea that we would all play it in unison and add a voice each time through – akin to some of the music Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, and Bill Frisell have done – but with a different twist. It is a very sparse, open and transparent tune and very different than anything on the recording. It has a bit of a melancholy vibe to it as well. It’s like glancing in the rear view mirror but also looking through the windshield at the same time. I love the openness that Felix brings to the harmony with the stacking of chords in the bass. Chris Walters plays a melodica on this tune that I bought in my wife’s hometown in Japan. Love that sound!
06) SCRATCH THAT ITCH
One of our funkier tunes on the CD! I wrote this with a couple great friends – New Orleans drummer, Doug Belote and Nashville bassist, Michael Rinne. I have been running what can best be described as a Nashville Jazz Collective at my house/studio for a few years. We write together and work on each other’s music, etc…it’s in the spirit of Charles Mingus’ Jazz Workshop. This tune has a bit of a Meters vibe in the way it riffs. In my opinion, this tune is highlighted by an unbelievable trombone solo by Roy Agee (who also plays with Prince) and a brilliant young Nashville guitarist, James DaSilva. I play some electro-sax on this and Bill Fanning plays some ‘Space Trumpet’ for your listening pleasure! Better get ur groove on!!
This is the ONLY tune I have ever written while on the road. I was messing around one day with an iPhone app that has Indian tabla sounds on it while on tour with Dave Matthews Band. This tune sort of fell out of the soprano. I picked it up off the floor, reworked it a bit once I got home and came up with what you hear now. I was overjoyed to get the master tabla player Zakir Hussain on this track as well as my wife, Ryoko Suzuki, playing harmonium. It’s a calm, serene piece that ended up being titled for the best Moroccan restaurant in NYC (East Village)! I enjoy composing using ideas and concepts from other cultures of music and this is one of those tunes.
08) YUKEMI (for Yukichi & Akemi)
I wrote this tune for my wife’s parents before one of their visits to the US. They live in Northern Japan (big sky country) in a beautiful town called Aizuwakamatsu. The song’s title is a combination of my their first names Yukichi & Akemi. I love the openness of this tune, the open space the melody provides and the deep swing that Futureman and Felix are playing. Only a very high level rhythm section could pull this tune off in the right way. This might be my favorite tune on Side Up.
09) THE SCRAMBLER
A friend of mine refers to me as the Tofu Scrambler sometimes (aka The Scrambler) – because I like tofu scrambles I guess? This tune again enlists the awe-inspiring talents of tabla master Zakir Hussain. The Scrambler has roots of inspiration in African music and other cultures of music from around the world. I love infusing these different cultural styles together into something that I feel has a unique sound and groove. These tunes have no ‘genre’ u can attach to them – which I like. I just call it ‘music’.
10) ALBERT’S BLUE SKY
The last tune on SIDE UP was written with the late, great Albert Ayler in mind. His music and sound have been an inspiration to me for a long time. His expressiveness and the way he would write these very folk-like melodies really warms me. Many people think of Ayler as an extreme in the avant-garde scene but the first of his music I heard was a recording called ‘Going Home’ – all old spirituals – on the Black Lion label. It was an epiphany to me to hear him! It was avant-garde but it was absolutely rooted in the blues. It was full of melody and emotion and beautiful sound. The melody for this tune came out on piano one day and there was something about it that kept drawing me back to it. This is another one we worked on as a group and we came up with a cool solo section and this is how we play it now. I added a few fellow Nashville horn players to give it sort of an Abdullah Ibrahim meets Charlie Haden meets Al Green meets Albert Ayler (with a little Aretha Franklin on the side) kind of vibe!
Produced by Jeff Coffin
Recorded at Omni Studios / Nashville, TN
February 25, May 2, May 3, 2013
Engineered by Nate ‘Pittsburgh’ Dickinson
Mixed by Richard Aspinwall / Aspin Studios
Mastered by Jim Demain / Yes Mastering
Assistant Engineers – Lee Unfried & Evan Theodore
Zakir Hussian recorded by Mujeeb Dadarkar
Bandwagon Recording Studios Pvt. Ltd. / Mumbai, India
Herlin Riley recorded by Jack Miele / Fudge Recording Studio / New Orleans, LA
Additional recorded at Huckleberry Row & ITA Studio / Nashville, TN
Package design by Robert Hakalski / Visual Machinery Studio / Philly, PA
This recording is dedicated to my dear friends Arthur Lagassee and Bert Wilson – two voices we lost in 2013. Both whose musical and personal influence is beyond words. Peace Now…
…both timeless and fresh…they are simply smoking.
Any band that jams like this has earned an exclamation point in the title of its live album…equal parts Galactic and Dirty Dozen Brass Band…(Coffin) enters like a spinning top, corkscrewing his phrases into a tightly wound circle that turns into a cyclone.
These players are peaking around corners and lifting up rocks to see what they find, and they’re stretching out wide to push boundaries…twisting the mind like a metaphysical puzzle.
…wonderful…Truly, there is not another band quite like Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet.
Brilliant transient transcendence. Yes it’s good. It’s very good…wicked nasty. I couldn’t sleep. I had several epiphanies.
…some of the best fusion heard in many a year.
Everybody Ear Up!