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01/03/12

Jeff Coffin & the Mu'tet
Live!
Ear Up Records

Any band that jams like this has earned an exclamation point in the title of its live album. Saxophonist and flutist Jeff Coffin—he who’s been known to stick two horns in his mouth at the same time—leads his Mu’tet through a batch of tunes that consume an average of 13 minutes apiece. Play this two-CD set in your car during a road trip and you are in for an enjoyable ride.

So were the crowds at these dates in Austin, Texas, and Evanston, Ill. The Mu’tet—a sometime-quintet, sometime-sextet whose lineup changes slightly across these discs—stretches out and out and out. All genres of music are fair game for their long-form jamming, but funk is the main ingredient. Electric bassist Felix Pastorius (yes, Jaco’s son) creates the groove and drummer Jeff Sipe lays down the funk/hip-hop rhythm of “Tag.” The horns state the theme, and Kofi Burbridge gets right to it with a funky solo on the electric piano. When it’s Coffin’s turn to solo, he enters like a spinning top, corkscrewing his phrases into a tightly wound circle that turns into a cyclone. The mood shifts with “Al’s Greens,” trumpeter Bill Fanning blowing atonally over a mild reggae beat until Coffin solos with soul on flute. Coffin, in fact, likes to switch things up. Later, on “The Evil Boweevil,” he warbles like a goldfinch on flute, until he decides to become aggressive with it, and when he tires of that he puts down the flute, picks up his tenor sax and growls and shrieks through it.

It goes on, everyone getting plenty of opportunity to shine, Sipe with rumbling drum passages, Pastorius with nifty double-time breaks. The jamming, however, is anything but monotonous, and the sequencing is key. The wild “Boweevil” is followed by the meditative, dreamy “Turiya,” which feels like an ode to the Coltranes. The Mu’tet hits its peak, though, when digging full bore into a groove, as it does on “Move Your Rug,” a shuffling blues that feels equal parts Galactic and Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Originally published in December 2011
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