Look For Water
Release date: May 5, 2023
Label: Ear Up Records

Look For Water is a celebration of wonder, hope and the vibrancy of New Orleans. Famed saxophonist Jeff Coffin presents this new recording fresh off the heels of his GRAMMY-nominated album Between Dreaming and Joy (2022). Demonstrating the breadth of Coffin’s compositional prowess, Look For Water is in some ways an inversion of  Between Dreaming and Joy. Coffin trades the mammoth and mighty ensemble of his last release for paired-down recordings in various, small instrumentations which effectively emphasize the tremendous interplay between ensemble members. Drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, tenor saxophonist Tony Dagradi and cellist Helen Gillet lend their stellar musicianship to Coffin’s 22nd release as a leader.

On a fateful day in 2021, just as New Orleans was unlocking from the Covid – imposed shutdown, cellist Helen Gillet arranged for a performance with Coffin at a large outdoor venue in NOLA called the Broadside Theatre. To add something different to the second set, Coffin asked drummer Johnny Vidacovich to join him for some duets. Bassist James Singleton and tenor saxophonist Tony Dagradi felt like a natural extension of this personnel because of their work with Vidacovich as founding members of the New Orleans supergroup Astral Project. Coffin notes “They have been playing together for 40+ years and their communication seems almost telepathic to me. There is no substitute for familiarity and these musicians are definitely family to each other.”

This 2021 evening at the Broadside Theater acted as the impetus for an impromptu recording session a couple days later. During a three-hour time constraint imposed by the group’s availability – Coffin was able to capture lightning in a bottle. A love letter to New Orleans in the truest of forms – a celebration of the distinct melodicism that contributes to the continual vibrancy, vivacity and urgency of the music of New Orleans. At the core of the album is the deep rhythmic acuity and soulfulness emanating from Vidacovich’s drum-set. The drummer imbues these recorded selections with his deeply-rooted knowledge of African rhythms, another pillar of the music of New Orleans.

On Look For Water, Coffin captures our ear with an arresting urgency, a melodicism that exudes a calm confidence – melding playfulness, soulfulness and spirituality. Some of the compositions featured here are based on the composer’s experiences in the majestic city of New Orleans. The chordless ensemble format affords Coffin the freedom of exploration between multiple sonorities at any given moment – which the saxophonist utilizes to the fullest, weaving masterfully-crafted stories with his horn.

The album begins on a playful note with “Toy Piano”. The short piece features Vidacovich playing a small red toy piano that was set up next to his drum kit during the recording session. Coffin notes “His humor shines through on everything he does and I felt that his beautiful intention and humor were a great way to start off the recording.” The title track “Look For Water” is a phrase that came to Coffin in a dream while he was in New Orleans. Coffin indicates “to me it signifies the importance of looking for the things that nurture us. Without water, we don’t survive. We don’t flourish. We don’t exist. I feel this way, metaphorically, about music as well. I feel like I ‘look for water’ every time I make music…I think most, if not all, musicians are looking for a sense of bliss, connection, communication, relevance, and purpose.”

Featuring a gorgeous, thematic drum solo from Vidacovich, “Sweet Magnolias” evokes the beauty of the flowers of the magnolia tree that have such a strong connection to the south and to New Orleans in particular. The album continues with two Coffin originals, both dedicated to the memory of two jazz greats who contributed to his musical upbringing. “Milford”, written in homage to the late genius percussionist Milford Graves, features Coffin in a duo context alongside Vidacovich. Coffin notes “Johnny’s playing on this tune and the entire record is sublime and deeply resonant in every way. I like to think he and Milford are cut from a similar spiritual and musical cloth.” “Yusef” is written in honor of saxophone titan Yusef Lateef. The piece feels like a natural extension of what Lateef’s music embraced. Coffin purchased Lateef’s main Mark VI tenor after his passing and composed this piece on that very saxophone. Coffin says “I recorded myself playing the tenor for the first time and this tune basically fell out of the horn. I like to think Yusef left a tune for me in the instrument. It’s always dedicated to his incredible spirit and the legacy he left behind.”

The album concludes with “Luminosity” featuring cellist Helen Gillet. Coffin notes “We included Helen Gillet and her incredible cello playing on this because she is such a deep and powerful link to that whole community to me… Her playing on this tune is so gorgeous and ethereal and you can really hear her history with Johnny, James, and Tony in the way they play together.” On the release as a whole, Coffin remarks “it felt like the tunes were a new wave of music rising up like the dawn of a new day. Bright, colorful, hopeful, expanding, full of wonder, and I really love the way this project turned out. Everyone is magical on it.”

Between Dreaming and Joy
Release date: August 26, 2022
Label: Ear Up Records

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 record 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.

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.

More about JEFF COFFIN
Jeff Coffin is a globally celebrated saxophonist, composer, educator, and is a member of the legendary U.S. rock group, Dave Matthews Band. You may also know him from his 14 years, and 3 Grammy Awards, with the genre-defying Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. Jeff fronts numerous groups when not touring with DMB and has released 20+ solo CD’s on Ear Up Records.

Coffin is known for his musical passion, his deep commitment to music education, and his continued dedication to improvisational music.

Jeff is also a Yamaha Performing Artist & Clinician, a Boston Sax Shop Ambassador, teaches improvisation at the prestigious Vanderbilt University, authored numerous music books, authored a children’s book, produces, engineers, mixes, draws, and runs his own critically acclaimed record label, Ear Up Records.

for Look for Water

Read the album announcement here.

"While the limited time may have put heavy pressure on many, Coffin and crew thrived on it in this bright, highly inspired session." Read the review here.

Listed among 10 Albums You Need to Know: May 2023 here.

See Coffin's full interview with Mergner here.

Listed in editor's choice here.

Check out this review in French here.

"This chord less album production allows Coffin and his bandmates a certain freedom, using horns to tell the entire story, with the exception of Johnny Vidacovich on drums, James Singleton on acoustic bass and Helen Gillet on cello." Check out the full review here.

"A listen with stunning interplay between the talented players, the calm ebbs, spiritual bursts and fleeting melodies keep the listener engaged from beginning to end." Check out the full review here.

for Between Dreaming and Joy

"Many of the album's charms and saving graces arrive in the details and detours.." Read the review in the November 2022 issue of DownBeat Magazine.

"The standout cut for me is the stirring, bluesy title track." Read the review in the October 2022 issue of Jazzwise Magazine.

"Between Dreaming and Joy is a fascinating listen because it is incredibly upbeat, funky, and makes you want to groove." Read the review here.

"The man’s talents overwhelm me." Read the review here.

"Head hunting!" Read the review here.

"Saxophonist and flutist Jeff Coffin has always pushed the envelope.." Article and segment here.

"..this disc does contain some very beautiful moments." Read the 4-star review in French here.

Named to Best Jazz of 2022 list here.

Read the Night Train's Best of 2022 list here.

Listen to the GRAMMY nominees in the 2023 Best Contemporary Instrumental category here.

"Hanging out with Jeff Coffin is a bit like listening to his music. Engulfed in a whirlwind of musical references, you’re never lost. " Read the feature story here.

Read the title track release announcement here.

Featured on the Jazziz Editors' Choice playlist here.