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Dennis Coffey: Hot Coffey in the D (Resonance)

Burnin’ at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge

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Dennis Coffey: Hot Coffey in the D
Dennis Coffey: Hot Coffey in the D

Even if you don’t know Dennis Coffey’s name, you know his sound. The guitarist was a member of the Funk Brothers, the legendary Motown Records studio band that backed artists such as the Supremes and the Temptations. He was also a regular presence in the clubs of Detroit, and that’s where Hot Coffey in the D comes from. Here we find him in concert at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge in 1968, with Lyman Woodard on Hammond B-3 and Melvin Davis on drums. It’s a burning, rocking set: fat chords, thumping bass, greasy organ and fuzzed-out guitar.

Two of the tunes are originals, and they’re classic guitar-organ-drums showcases of their era. On “Fuzz”—it is what the name portends—the musicians negotiate the fuzzy line between funk-jazz and psychedelic rock of the late ’60s, while on “The Big D” they foreshadow the hard-driving groove-jazz of Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down.” Three of the tunes are covers of pop hits from that time—Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” the Bacharach-David classic “The Look of Love” and “Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over),” made famous by soul singer Ruby Andrews. Each is rearranged to suit Coffey’s trio—“The Look of Love” is particularly sumptuous, with Coffey ruminating over organ swells and a funk beat—and each sounds totally at home in its new environment. Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” however, is done faithfully, as though Coffey saw no need to mess with it (aside from turning over the tune, written for acoustic quintet, to organ trio and inserting some double-time). The trio ends with an almost ridiculously fast “Wade in the Water” that sounds more car chase than spiritual. Like everything else here, it works.

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