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April 2002

Jeff Coffin Mu'tet
Go-Round
Compass Records

A lot of personality flows out of Jeff Coffin's horn. The gregarious reedman will play an impish phrase here, a rhythmically driving line there, but with near-constant verve and confidence. The former student of Joe Lovano and sometimes Bela Fleck sideman chose Nashville, Tenn., as his base of operations, which definitely reflects his inclination to do his own thing. On Go-Round, Coffin runs his group, the Mu'tet through a varied set of creative Coffin-penned originals, including uptempo postbop, touches of swing, Middle Eastern accents and the use, however superficially, of a bass harmonica player.

Though fine players all, the Mu'tet really has no standout player besides its leader. The other guys in the band take short solos that sound solid if unspectacular, and rarely threaten to overshadow Coffin, who takes the lion's share of solo time. The exception would be trombonist Roy Agee, who drops some nice plunger work on "Walking on Thin Water." Coffin is an intermittently exciting player, who thinks and plays in short, disjointed segments, which only occasionally stretch beyond a few seconds and sometimes fail to cohere. He and the band sound great on the catchy, uptempo stuff, where the Mu'tet routinely breaks down into the Mu'trio (of bassist Derek Jones and drummer Tom Giampietro), leaving Coffin plenty of harmonic and rhythmic headroom. The down-tempo stuff is another matter. On the cloying ballads, "Zuleikha" and "Only Love," Coffin sounds maudlin, melodramatic and a little uncomfortable. The only really low note on Go-Round, however, would be "As in the Beginning," which sounds like Serge Gainsbourg's long lost jazz single, complete with accordion and breathy French narration.

Originally published in April 2002
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