May 25, 2024

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CD review: Jeff Coffin – Between Dreaming and Joy 2022: Video, CD cover

Between Dreaming and Joy is the latest release from saxophonist, composer and educator Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band/Bela Fleck & the Flecktones). In the company of an eye-popping cast of musicians, the forthcoming Ear Up Records release — slated for August 26, 2022 — is a breathtaking culmination of over two years in the studio.

Calling upon its enigmatic, pandemic-induced origins, Coffin’s upcoming 10-track collection gathers unusual and new sounds for the saxophonist, speaking to the power of his boundless compositional impulse and eclectic sonic arrest.

Coffin is joined by a diverse, all-star group of musicians for his 21st release as a leader. With an impressive and vast lineup, each artist featured on Between Dreaming and Joy’s roster uniquely recorded for it in a different place –  a rare circumstance for Coffin, who notes how recording each component felt like a jigsaw puzzle due to the album’s many pieces. The robust list of Coffin’s collaborators includes: Marcus King, Michael League, Robben Ford, Keith Carlock, Stefan Lessard, Nigel Hall, Kris Myers, DJ Logic, Bob Lanzetti, Jordan Person, Felix Pastorius, Chester Thompson, Buddy Strong, Bernardo Aguiar, Sarah Ariche, Jeff Babko, Mike Baggetta, Jennifer Hartswick, Vicente Archer, Chris Wood, Bill Fanning, Alana Rocklin, Ray Mason, Emmanuel Echem, Chris Walters, Richard Aspinwall, Derico Watson, David Rodgers, Derrek Phillips, Jonathan Wires and Tony Hall.

”It was the first instance in over 25 years that I had the time and resources to deep dive into my composing in a way that wouldn’t be interrupted by going on the road,” Coffin notes, discussing his reaction to the global moment-of-pause. Despite no plans to release an album at the time of lockdown, Coffin took the standstill period as an opportunity to relish in his creative process. Maximizing his musical resources without disruption, he finished some stashed-away works while finding new influences along the way. “I ended up with over 30 new tunes, I finished many older tunes and ended up with 6 or 7 full records to release.”

Between Dreaming And Joy, while anchored in spontaneity, captures Coffin’s inclination to transcend genre. The record is sustained by a variety of instrumentation and features 8 bassists, 6 drummers, 5 guitar players, 4 keyboardists, a set of Middle Eastern frame drums, Brazilian percussion, Moroccan vocals, a turntable artist, multiple horns, an ice cream truck, a Hungarian Tarogato and an African Ngoni.

Blending the fierce and calm, Coffin invites us into a harmonious realm he describes as a point “between dreaming and joy.” The album opens with the spirited fusion track “Vinnie the Crow”, where DJ Logic joins the lineup on turntables for an uplifting intro co-written by Coffin and Alex Clayton. Encapsulating the spirit of isolation, the title track is infused with whim, offering a reflective tone that at times evokes a blues rock anthem before segueing into a dreamlike, instrumental trance. Marcus King’s prolific offering on guitar here gives meaning to the word ‘joy,’ while Buddy Strong’s moody stroke of the B-3 organ complements the blissful rich harmonic music in the background.

Other compositions also pick up on Coffin’s playful curiosities, like “In the Belly Of The Whale,” which utilizes a cluster of Brazilian percussion instruments. The entire record is wrought by an atypical pairing of instruments — on the track “Ruthie,” a tribute to the late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kris Myers plays drums as well as a cowbell; while the album closer “Bird & Magic finds Coffin at one point playing a Coca-Cola bottle as a sound device.

Nearing the end of his expenditure, Coffin offers a trifecta saxophone performance on “Busting Out All Over,” taking listeners through an engrossing reverie with melodic interplay from David Rodgers on fender rhodes and B-3 organ. Exposing his dexterity with woodwinds, Coffin closes with a flute performance on the groove-infused “Bird & Magic,” a masterclass in nuance.

“I felt like I was alternating between dreaming and joy this entire time,” he shares. “These incredible spirits were all there with me as we found our way forward, together from different places.” Demonstrating his affinity for experimentation and profound commitment to the avant-garde, Jeff Coffin takes a tree-top, aerial view on Between Dreaming And Joy, finding commonality in the vibrations of everyday life with a fierce look onward, toward a new and enhanced vantage point.

1. Vinnie the Crow
2. Ruthie
3. Tip The Band
4. In The Belly Of The Whale
5. Between Dreaming And Joy
6. Spinning Plates
7. Behind The 8 Ball
8. Busting Out All Over
9. When Birds Sing
10. Bird & Magic

Jeff Coffin:soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax, electro-sax, tarogato, piccolo, alto flute, bass flute, c flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, melodica, vocals, percussion, coke bottles

BASS: Vicente Archer, Tony Hall, Michael League, Stefan Lessard, Felix Pastorius, Alana Rocklin, Jonathan Wires, Chris Wood
GUITAR: Richard Aspinwall, Mike Baggetta, Robben Ford, Marcus King, Bob Lanzetti
DRUMS: Keith Carlock, Kris Myers, Jordan Perlson, Derrek Phillips, Chester Thompson, Derico Watson
KEYS: Nigel Hall, David Rodgers, Buddy Strong, Chris Walters
TRUMPET: Emmanuel Echem, Bill Fanning
VOCALS & NGONI: Sarah Ariche
ADDITIONAL VOCALS: Jennifer Hartswick

NEW RELEASE: GRAMMY-Winning Saxophonist and Composer Jeff Coffin Delivers a New Enchanting Masterwork with Between Dreaming and Joy, due out August 26, 2022 (Ear Up Records)

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