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The night of February 8th, 2013 was an eye opening experience for me. The Grey Eagle was host to Jeff Coffin and his Mu’tet. Of course his stint with The Dave Mathews and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones is the most notable musical endeavor of Mr. Coffin, or it could be the fact he has multiple Grammy’s but the fact remains, he is a saxophone legend. Jeff Coffin is internationally recognized for his saxophone playing. He is bandleader in his Mu’tet, and educator. Education continues to be an important part of what Jeff shares with others, and he is a tireless champion to players of all ages and levels to discover and cultivate their own musical voice. Jeff is a heavily in-demand clinician, a Yamaha Performing Artist and, since 2001, has presented nearly 300 solo and Mu’tet music clinics from Farmington, Maine to Perth, Australia to students of all ages to raving reviews. He has been sharing his talents around the globe since the late 20th Century.
It might have been the sheer talent that radiates off the Mu’tet or the fact that this particular group of musicians is intensely appealing to the eye. The lineup Jeff chose is unprecedentedly intriguing on paper and on stage. The son of Jaco Pastorius, Felix, is on bass. Making music is like getting dressed to Felix. His bass skills are smooth as butter and are to sure take you for a ride with a dropped jaw. He has earned his place and learned to navigate with The Mu’tet and who better to stand beside him than another legend, Roy “Futureman” Wooten? In the category of legends, “Futche” is the essence of inspiration. His drum style is an infusion of classical with jazz elements, which fits like a glove in The Mu’tet. Although he is man of many talents and has invented his own instruments which he uses with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, he personifies “drummer” in The Mu’tet. The magic between Futureman and Felix is undoubtedly the best rhythm section I’ve ever witnessed. This is just half of the lineup. Jeff Coffin’s right hand man, Bill Fanning, is a wicked nasty trumpet master that is inevitably fast, in order to keep up with Jeff. He bounces back and forth during the show between trumpet and space trumpet. The duo fade in and out of the shadows while adding tidbits to Felix, Futureman and keyboardist, Chris Walters. Walters’ compositions’ are alternately playful or poignant, sentimental or intense and highlights The Mu’tet with his key sophistication. His intricate tempo shifts hold amazingly tight with Jeff and the band. He proves his aptitude as he jumps from piano to accordion, a raw talent at both. This night Jeff invited a special guest, Casey Driessen. He is a local fiddling phenom that seems to magnetize huge talents such as Jeff Coffin. He has limitless energy and spontaneity when it comes to his strings. The unusual thing about Casey’s fiddle was that he plays acoustic and electric five-string violins, each of which has an additional low C string, making for one electric, eclectic experience. Jeff is known for his saxophone skills but also plays his flute during the set. Coffin sent shockwaves down my spine with his fierce soloing and inspiring, memorable compositions. Coffin uses guitar effects on his sax, which he calls ‘electro-sax’ as well as sometimes playing two saxophones at the same time, which he did this night at The Grey Eagle. Coffin has solidified himself as respected songwriter, eclectic musician and contemporary pioneer of the saxophone.
While the atmosphere was cordial and congenial, things warmed up considerably on the bandstand as the night unfolded. I left with a newfound respect for all 6 men that graced the stage. With brilliant transient transcendence, this was no doubt some of the best jazz fusion I have ever seen. These guys are looking around corners and picking up rocks to see what they find, and stretching out wide to push boundaries, twisting the mind like a metaphysical puzzle.
Check out Jeff Coffin and The Mu’tet on tour now at http://www.jeffcoffin.com/mutet/