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A freewheeling kaleidoscopic

Jeff Coffin Mu'tet - Mutopia

(Compass Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: July 25, 2008
Jeff Coffin Mu'tet

Review by Brad Walseth

Best known as the saxman who replaced Chicago harmonica/keyboard player Howard Levy in Bela Fleck's Flecktones (admittedly several years after he left), Jeff Coffin here takes a similar type of approach to the music with some of the same musicians. Drummer Futureman (Roy Wooten) is the drummer throughout, while banjo virtuoso Fleck and killer bassist Victor Wooten make appearances. The music is as freewheeling and kaleidoscopic as you would expect from someone's Coffin's pedigree.

Ranging from funk to reggae ("Emma Ya Ya") to blues ("Sweet Magnolias") to New Orleans ("Move Your Rug") to Zappa-esque high-spirited messin' around ("Tag"), the music never comes down from it's non-stop insistence on fun. Jazz bass icon, Jaco Pastorious' son, Felix provides the low end on all but one track, and even holds his own in an entertaining duel with Victor Wooten on "Al's Green." On that track, Nashville bassist Alana Rocklin funks it up on "Bubble Up," which she cowrote with Coffin. This tune features Fleck and is one of the true highlights. Coffin plays alto, tenor and baritone sax, along with flute (and other things), while keyboardist Kofi Burbridge doubles on the flute on some of the numbers with great results, while additional percussionists, drummers, horn, guitar, keyboard (and turntable) players add to the colorful mix.

Fans of the Flecktones and similar sounds will have much to cheer about here, while the more introspective jazz listeners may enjoy the floating "Turiya" and driving "L'Esperance." Throughout the recording, there can be no question of the skills of the parties involved and the exuberance with which the musicians approach the music. As a child, Coffin must have been in the corner often for coloring outside the lines and he shares his messy palette with the listener while exuding joyful abandon.

Check out great Chicago jazz happenings at JazzChicago.net

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