...Something about a Duet

Jeff Coffin + Jeff Sipe ~ 'DUET' on Compass Records

(available now on iTunes)

A musical conversation. We all have stories to tell and to share them with friends is something we all like to do. We laugh with each other, we feel the joys, the sorrows, the beauty, the pain, the experience of being alive and the experience of being together.

Out of these stories and conversation is how our “Duet” recording came to pass. Jeff Sipe and I have been playing music and touring together for many years with various incarnations of my group, of his trio, playing in jam sessions at festivals, as well as talking about music, swapping stories, hanging out at each others homes, and becoming lifelong friends along the way. We share similar views about music and creating and of allowing the spirit of what we do overtake us and be led by it. For this project, we decided to ‘just play’, record everything, and see what came out the other side of the rabbit hole. No expectations.

We recorded in Brevard, NC, at the Porter Music Center, for nearly 3 days. We recorded everything ourselves with only 3 microphones. We brought horns, drums, gongs, bells, flutes, whistles, etc.... We had a few sketches of tunes but didn’t want that to be the focus, rather we wanted the tunes to spring forth from the improvisations. We wanted to experience the ebb and flow of creating musical conversations between two people familiar with each other who like to talk.

After the sessions were finished, I took the recording home but waited a while before I listened so I could work with fresh ears. As we figured, there was a lot to work with and listen to. After talking it over with Jeff Sipe, we decided we would make the piece one ‘seamless’ work where each piece we chose would morph into the next for a unique listening experience. After a lot of work and trying many combinations of pieces, I finally came up with the final version. We feel good about the music we shared and recorded and of the process of allowing the creative moments to find us. We hope you enjoy listening to the music as much as we enjoyed playing it.


check out more here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvUB5393ObY


The King...King Curtis!

King Curtis…to me, the name says it all. I don’t know of another tenor saxophonist who sounded like him, conceptualized like him, or had such an understanding of the blues on that instrument. His playing with Aretha Franklin is well documented (that’s him on R-E-S-P-E-C-T) and his live recording ‘Live at the Filmore West’ is a gem (released just one week before he was murdered in 1971).

One recording, in particular, that I want to write about here is from a live recording in Montreux, Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival in June, 1971 under the leadership of both King Curtis and Champion Jack Dupree. It is called, appropriately, ‘Blues at Montreux’. The tune I want to talk about is called Poor Boy Blues. I first heard this on an NPR broadcast while I was in college in the early 1980’s. It was a late night blues show and I decided to throw a cassette into the player and record it. The next day when I listened back to it I heard a couple of older, more traditional vocal blues tunes, a Dizzy Gillespie piece, and then it happened. It happened slowly but within a couple minutes into the tune, lightning stuck! It reached to the depth of my soul and forever changed the way I hear and play music.

At the beginning of the tune, behind Champion Jack Dupree’s beautifully raw and raspy vocal, the wispiness of King Curtis’ sound was initially a turnoff for me. At the time, I was more heavily into the ‘newer’ school of tenor players who didn’t have the old school ‘fooh-fooh’ airiness in their sound. I decided to listen anyhow. I am forever thankful that I did. I had no idea of the impact this one tune would have on my understanding of music! What happened during his solo was nothing short of an epiphany for me. His concept, his sound, his phrasing, his use of altissimo and the low end of the horn (the complete range of his instrument), the vibrancy of his tone, the groove and interaction under him, the way he listened to everyone and them to him, his rhythmic diversity and complexity, and his absolute commitment to what he played, nearly put me on the floor. It was a truly cathartic experience. Goose bumps don’t even begin to describe what I felt from this player I had never even heard of before. Over the next year or so, I must have listened a couple hundred times to that one particular recording…in the car, under headphones, in my house, at college, in other peoples car, other people’s houses, etc…By the end of my first listen to this tune I was a convert to the school of King Curtis.

As is always the case, I gradually got into listening to other music and eventually lost or let someone borrow that cassette. I always remembered the impact of it and, after many years of on and off again searching for this recording, I finally came across it a few years ago on CD in a used record store. It is now available on iTunes and from various other places. It still moves me and gives me goose bumps. This is a desert island recording for me and I just now listened to it and thought I should really let some more folks know. The audio sounds great, the playing is raw and full of emotion and passions run high throughout the entire recording. If you are in the mood for blues that are authentic, passionate, beautiful, full of soul, movement, and emotion, I highly recommend you check this recording out. I hope you do. Happy listening.

BTW, in my first visit to Ornette Coleman’s loft in NYC, the only picture I saw was a Polaroid on his kitchen table of a plaque dedicated to the late great King Curtis. King, indeed.

For more on King Curtis and his music, check his Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Curtis


In 1970, Curtis won the Best R&B Instrumental Performance Grammy for "Games People Play".[14]

Curtis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 6, 2000.[15]


King Curtis

  • The Good Old Fifties (1959)
  • Have Tenor Sax, Will Blow (1959)
  • Azure (1960)
  • King Soul (1960)
  • Soul Meeting (1960)
  • Party Time (1961)
  • Trouble in Mind (1961)
  • Old Gold (1961)
  • Night Train (1961)
  • Doin' the Dixie Twist (1962)
  • Country Soul (1962)
  • Soul Twist and other Golden Classics (1962)
  • It's Party Time (1962)
  • The Best of (1962)
  • Soul Serenade (1964)
  • Plays Hits made by Sam Cooke (1965)
  • That Lovin' Feeling (1966)
  • Live at Small's Paradise (1966)
  • Play Great Memphis Hits (1967)
  • Memphis Soul Stew (1967)
  • Sweet Soul (1968)
  • Sax in Motion (1968)
  • Instant Groove (1969)
  • Everybody Talkin (1970)
  • Get Ready (1970)
  • Blues at Montreux (1971)

King Curtis and The Kingpins

  • King Size Soul (1967)
  • Eternally, Soul (1968) with The Shirelles
  • Soul Twist(1962) with The Noble Nights
  • Live at Fillmore West (1971)


To be, is to be related.

i have been thinking a lot about relationships over the last few years and how they make up all parts of our lives and everything we do. i was recently posed a question...if you have 2 notes played together, is it a relationship or is it a chord? i thought it an interesting question and i believe that even if it's a chord (tonal or atonal) it is built of relationships...the relationship of intervals and sounds and vibration. so, not unlike light - which is two things, both a particle and a wave, 2 notes played together are also two things...both a relationship and a chord.

i believe everything we do is a relationship...from relationships with friends, business partners, spouses, teachers, students, boy/girlfriend, people we have known for a long or short time, things we are familiar or unfamiliar with, food, our bodies, composition, art, our passions, nature, thoughts & ideas, our surroundings, our fears, likes, dislikes, and, our most important relationship, the relationship with ourselves. lately, i have been reading (and highly recommending) a book called "On Relationship" by a great writer/speaker/teacher named Krishnamurti. he is very clear about the universality of relationship by saying, "To be, is to be related." and that the one thing inherent in every relationship is that there will be 'conflict'. he is not judging conflict as positive or negative but rather looking at it as an opportunity for us to understand ourselves better by recognizing our role in the conflict and realizing the conflict is within US - not in the object, situation, or person in our relationship. using that conflict as a reflective process to see ourselves better. for example, as a musician, there is 'conflict' in learning an instrument...all the difficult concepts, scales, patterns, notes, rhythms, etc...we have to work on to become proficient and the thousands of hours of practice, education, rehearsing, etc...but we choose to embrace and accept that 'conflict' because of our passion for music and we choose to move thru it in order to get to the next level of expression. the idea or concept is the same for any type of relationship we are in. i believe this is something i will never stop thinking about and thought i would share the book and ideas with others who might be interested...i like to think about how i relate to my relationships...it's been quite eye (and ear)-opening.


if ever in toronto...head to the rex jazz club (also known as the rex hotel). there is always some great music happening there. i have been there the last 2 nites while we had off nites with DMB and it has been off the hook! i have played there myself a few different times with my friends michael & roberto occhipinti on guitar and bass respectively, barry romberg on drums and tom reynolds on piano. the club has a great vibe and features some of the top improvisors in toronto...lots of folks come in from the states to play this club as well. check it out at www.therex.ca...you won't be sorry.


cd review - Dafnis Prieto “Si o Si”

from time to time, i will be posting thoughts about particular recordings that have an impact on me. here is the first - from one of my favorite newer composers and drummers...

Dafnis Prieto - “Si o Si”

Dafnis Prieto, Peter Apfelbaum, Manuel Valera, Charles Flores

Si o Si is reactive to a point. The collective breath of the players seems to support the overall sound and structure of the pieces and the rhythms that glide underneath. Beautiful and articulate cymbal sounds…Dafnis has an obvious understanding of sound and displacement and transparency.

Dafnis’ compositions are meaningful and beautiful and are part of the overall journey in a way that I don’t hear often enough. Check out his earlier recordings to hear his progression as a writer and arranger.

To me, this group, at times, sounds like what a flock of birds maneuvering together would sound like if you could hear them.

Peter Apfelbaum is a brilliant musician. As a percussionist, his understanding of rhythm is comprehensive and physical. As a pianist, his ability to harmonize his rhythmic and melodic ideas is fascinating and moving. As a saxophonist, I hear the history of the instrument played with a unique sound, texture, design and flow. He seems to get stronger the deeper in he gets….it sounds like he is playing himself (and the listener) into a musical trance.

Manuel Valera sounds as though he is lightly pouncing on the piano the way a cat toys with something before devouring it completely…sometimes leaving scraps to make a point. (BTW I love the melodica work by both Manuel & Peter) He fits in really well with Dafnis’ rhythmic concept without crowding him. He is a brilliant soloist with unusual and surprising ideas.

Charles Flores holds the bottom together on bass. He has a beautiful sound in which you can hear a deep foundational understanding of time, rhythm, harmony and the culture of music. His playing further roots these compositions. He helps make it all dance and, to me, this is all dance music.

“Si o Si” is an excellent live recording. Producer (and great bassist/composer/arranger from Toronto), Roberto Occhipinti has a great track record producing Dafnis and I give a big nod to this production and to his obvious support of a great artist and to of one of the great improvisational band of our time. Thanks to you all. I look forward to hearing more music from all of these great artists.

i got an email today from someone who commented that they were "bored" with their playing lately. i believe this happens from time to time with musicians. we get so used to hearing our own style and licks and become familiar with them sometimes to a point of contempt or boredom. don't let it get you down...there are always plateaus and highs and lows in the journey. i think we have to be as creative as we can in finding wasy to be creative and inspired.

here are a few suggestions of ways to overcome that situation.
1. go listen to something you have never heard before
2. write a new piece of music
3. record yourself and figure out the things you like and dislike about your playing
4. practice something familiar in a way you have not tried before.
5. write out 5 strengths and 5 weaknesses in your playing.
6. watch your favorite musicians on youtube and find inspiration in that!
7. take a lesson with someone whose playing you really like.
8. go sit in with some other musicians.
9. set up a jam session or a string of them to have an opportunity to play.
10. take a lesson with someone who doesn't play your instrument.
11. go to a museum, art gallery, walk in nature and find some inspiration there.
12. play freely and see where your own music takes you when there are no restrictions.
13. find an artist you have always heard about but never heard and dig in!
14. make your own list of how to get out of your "rut".

these are a few suggestions that work for me and that have been shared by others. i know there are many more and you should share them with those around you. open up a dialogue with other musicians because this is a common situation we find ourselves in.

here are some musicians i recommend who are sometimes a little off the beaten path...i hope you find inspiration in their art...
charles lloyd, oumou sangare, ornette coleman, hariprasad chaurasia, ali fakar toure, lightning hopkins, john lee hooker, afel bocum, hermeto pascoal, carlos malta, guinga, alan lomax field recordings, www.folkstreams.com, jesse fuller, bert wilson, toumani diabate, sun ra, richard galliano, roland kirk, alash ensemble, konger-ol ondar, kasse diabate, fanfare ciocarlia, dhafer yousef, professor longhair, bettye lavette....to name a few. happy listening!


thoughts about blogging...

after many hours of contemplation, a few heavy sighs, foot baths, lucid dreams, and the washing of curtains, i have decided to start a blog so i can write about music, photography, travels, education, shows, and other things i am generally into...

please feel free to check out www.jeffcoffin.com for music related stuff or my photo galleries at www.jeffcoffinphotography.com

also, i don't use lots of capital letteRs...although this template apparently defaults to them on certain things...and i don't like celery. really.