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Jeff Coffin's new album features more than a dozen instruments – including a soda pop bottle

Jeff Coffin plays saxophone, flute, baritone clarinet, coke bottle and more on his new album
Rodrigo Simas
GROOV Marketing
Jeff Coffin plays saxophones, flutes, clarinets, a Coke bottle and more on his new album.

When dealing with a complex project, it’s best to have the right tools for the job and a knowledge of how to use them. On his new album Between Dreaming and Joy, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Coffin puts 13 instruments to work, plus vocals, percussion and even a soda pop bottle. He also employs a number of talented special guests on this funky and fun collection, each of them placed to optimize their skills.

Coffin’s history playing with the Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones has trained him to find just the right music to play in just the right places. When it’s his chance to lead, Coffin uses his versatility to bring elements of folk, rock and especially funky soul music to the fore.

The title song on Between Dreaming and Joy opens with the sound of an ice cream truck before Keith Carlock's deep groove drum beat introduces a vast array of Jeff Coffin's instrument collection. The slow burning, cinematic song finds Coffin playing tenor, soprano and baritone saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet, melodica and flute, with which he plays a soulful — if brief — solo. Special guest Marcus King is the focus on slide guitar, giving the song a heart of blues.

"Ruthie," written for the late Supreme Court Justice Rush Bader Ginsberg, increases the tempo and the funk factor with Coffin's flute taking center stage with a softly growling riff full of soul. Jeff Babko, Coffin's partner in the recently-formed Band of Other Brothers, is the special guest here on Fender Rhodes and Prophet 5 synthesizer. As joyful as it is funky, this could be the theme to television's next great detective show.

The nostalgic soul feeling continues with "Bird and Magic," written for the basketball stars who battled for NBA championships through the '80s. The swaggering rhythm introduces Coffin's flute paired with the organ playing of young soul and funk star Nigel Hall. The song is more a display of confidence than a fast break, so give this game to Larry Bird's Boston Celtics.

Snarky Puppy bassist and band leader Michael League teams with Coffin on "Vinnie the Crow", one of the more modern sounding numbers with the addition of master turntablist DJ Logic. The anthemic blues rock energy transitions to a dreamlike trance, evoking the pandemic shutdown's feelings of lost time. It's gleeful and also reflective, giving a sense of appreciation and eagerness for the future.

The impressive guest musician list also includes Snarky Puppy guitarist Bob Lanzetti and blues guitar legend Robben Ford, as well as top modern bassists Chris Wood, Felix Pastorius and Vicente Archer. Coffin inspires ebullient playing from all his bandmates and it comes through clearly on Between Dreaming and Joy.

Jeff Coffin is an artist in perpetual motion. He's recently launched the virtual music education site The Sax Loft with fellow saxophone stars Tia Fuller and Kirk Whalum and the Boston Sax Shop. Always moving, Coffin keeps his fans and fellow jazz stars moving too.

The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND

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Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.