Mutation is defined as the changing of a structure, resulting in a variant form. That is a clear reflection of saxophonist and 3-time Grammy® Award-winner Jeff Coffin's philosophy that music must continue to change and mutate in order to grow. Side Up (available November 4 on Ear Up Records), the 6th release with his critically acclaimed band Jeff Coffin & The Mu'tet, showcases the astounding range of influences Coffin has absorbed as an in-demand sideman to a "who's who" of musicians.
Having performed with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones from 1997-2010 and Dave Matthews Band since 2008, Coffin has been traveling the globe as a saxophonist, bandleader, composer and educator since the late 20th Century. He has shared the stage with musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Bob Mintzer, John Scofield, McCoy Tyner, Galactic, and Kirk Whalum, as well as a wide variety of esteemed groups such as Phish, My Morning Jacket, Van Morrison, The Dixie Chicks, Umphrey's McGee, Widespread Panic, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others.
Featuring 5-time Grammy® Award-winning drummer Roy 'Futureman' Wooten, electric bassist Felix Pastorius, trumpeter Bill Fanning and pianist/keyboardist Chris Walters, Jeff Coffin & The Mu'tet strive to expand their horizons, as well as their fans, with music flavored by their eclectic interests on Side Up. The compositions blend sounds from the deep wells of New Orleans Second Line, African music, Indian Ragas, Brazilian music, folk, Gypsy, and straight ahead jazz.
These influences are shown throughout the album with tunes including the African-inspired "The Scrambler" and the Indian-inspired "Mogador" - both of which feature the breathtaking talents of tabla master Zakir Hussain. As a nod to his jazz roots, "Steppin' Up" is the changes to John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" done with a different melody and in the style of a New Orleans brass band.
The album also spotlights compositions inspired by personal experiences and relationships. "Yukemi" was written for his wife's parents before one of their visits to the U.S. from their home in Northern Japan. The song's title is a combination of his wife's parents' first names Yukichi and Akemi. Continuing on that path, "And So It Begins" was written for two friends who were getting married at his Nashville home in 2013. "Two weeks before they were to be married, the bride to be was diagnosed with breast cancer (she is now cancer free!), and so they were starting a number of journeys together," states Coffin. "It seemed like an appropriate way to start the album."
Coffin has assembled a world-class lineup of guests for this outing - Zakir Hussain on tabla, Herlin Riley on tambourine, Radha Botofasina on harp, Rod McGaha and Mike Haynes on trumpet, Roy Agee and Barry Green on trombone, Denis Solee and Evan Cobb on tenor saxophone, Pat Bergeson on harmonica, James DaSilva on guitar, R. Scott Bryan on congas, and Ryoko Suzuki on harmonium.
The Mu'tet's mission is to deliver music that sends shockwaves down people's spines with their fierce soloing and memorable compositions. Coffin and Fanning aim for that goal sometimes by using guitar effects on their horns, which they call 'electro-sax' and 'space trumpet.' These techniques are featured on "Scratch That Itch," one of the funkier tunes on the album, which Coffin co-wrote with New Orleans drummer, Doug Belote and Nashville bassist Michael Rinne.
Side Up marks the second consecutive recording which Coffin has extensively collaborated compositionally with The Mu'tet. Notes Coffin. "A great lesson I learned from Béla Fleck is to give the musicians freedom in finding their 'voices' in the music." Following that philosophy, Coffin only gave the sidemen a skeleton of sorts, which was then worked out in rehearsals to form an entire fleshed out body of work. Coffin continues, "These are some of the finest musicians I have ever had the opportunity to play with. What they bring to the musical table is astonishing."
The members of the band have the same admiration for Coffin as well. "I've been playing alongside Jeff Coffin now for well over a decade and I can easily say, without a doubt, that I would not be the person or musician I am today if it wasn't for that invitation to join The Mu'tet," reflects Pastorius who is also currently a member of the acclaimed Yellowjackets. "For years now, Jeff has been a constant reminder of dedication and hard work, and I believe it is no more apparent than in his sound and his music."
Upcoming Jeff Coffin & The Mu'tet Performances:
November 1 / Vermont Jazz Center / Brattleboro, VT
November 2 / Bridge Street Live / Collinsville, CT
November 4 / River Street Jazz Cafe / Plains, PA
November 5 / Blues Alley / Washington, DC
November 6 / DROM / New York, NY
November 7 / Clementine Cafe / Harrisonburg, VA
November 8 / Isis Music Hall / Asheville, NC
November 9 / 3rd & Lindsley / Nashville, TN
November 19 - 22 / Jazz at the Bistro / St. Louis, MO