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Jeff Coffin

Kofi Burbridge, Bill Fanning, Jeff Coffin

Jeff Sipe

Photos by Rudy Lu

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Massry Center
for the Arts
Albany, NY
March 20, 2011

by Rudy Lu

Per Wikipedia, jazz rock fusion is defined as a “musical genre that developed in the late 1960s from a mixture of elements of jazz such as its focus on improvisation with the rhythms and grooves of funk and R&B and the beats and heavily amplified electric instruments and electronic effects of rock”. Jeff Coffin – of Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones fame – led his own band at the Massry Center Sunday evening for a new look at this old genre.

The opening tune was “The Half Sleep”, a gospel-tinged blues with a repeating riff that displayed almost infinite color and variety. The composition immediately reminded me of some of the late Jaco Pastorius’ compositions… which is handy, as his son Felix is the bass player in the Jeff Coffin Mu’tet. He plays in his father’s hyperkinetic polyrhythmic style, and he brought Jaco back to life for everyone who remembered him.

Jeff Sipe provided both the foundation and added to the color of the music with his drum kit. The front line was rounded out by Bill Fanning on trumpet. He played both strong solos and blazing unison choruses with Coffin. His playing was particularly shown in the bebop influenced tune “First Comes Last.” Kofi Burbridge took a break from his scintillating work on keyboards switched to play flute the late 70’s jazz rock/African influenced “Loueke."

This was followed nonstop by “Tag” and “Al’s Dreams, which was basically forty minutes of mesmerizing interplay. The evening was rounded out by “It’s About Time”, “ Sweet Magnolias” and the encore “The Mad Hatter Rides Again”. All the tunes displayed rapid unison playing and solos by all the members of the band.

Yes, folks, jazz-rock fusion is not a museum form, but still a living and developing genre. That was certainly on display on Sunday night. It’s a pity that Massry was only 2/3 full for this performance. Hopefully, more of the Tech Valley will hear the Jeff Coffin Mu’tet perform in the near future.

Rudy Lu is a safety consultant by day , fine arts photographer nights and weekends and an occasional music critic. He has had a passion for jazz since his college days when he was a dj for WRUC (Radio Union College). He is a frequent contributor to as well as His work has been exhibited locally and has been featured by both nationally known and local musicians. He lives in Niskayuna, NY.