JamBase Questionnaire: Jeff Coffin

Welcome to the second installment of JamBase's new weekly feature where we put a baker's dozen of probing, wide-ranging questions to the bright lights in the jam scene and beyond in order to expose juicy tidbits about their musical minds. If you missed it, the series began last week with Rob Barraco of Dark Star Orchestra. See it here.

Jeff Coffin
There's a streamlined intensity to Jeff Coffin. Even when he smiles – and he's got a great one, especially when he's really feeling it full bore onstage – one gets the impression that he's serious as a freakin' heart attack about delivering only the very best music he and whatever aggregate of hyper-talented folks are at his elbow can muster. Miraculously inventive on saxophone, clarinet and flute, Coffin is a willful musical chameleon who rejects any limiting tag, preferring to be simply known as a 'musician' without qualifiers. His playing reflects this wide-armed embrace of music in the grandest sense. Though Coffin can get down 'n' dirty with the New Orleans boys, he can also rock convincingly with the Dave Matthews Band, which he joined in 2008. He's one of the few contemporary woodwind players able to pull off Rahsaan Roland Kirk's impressive, multi-tonal circular breathing technique, which allows him, as it did Kirk, to play multiple instruments simultaneously. In lesser hands this could be a simple crowd-wowing stunt, but like everything Coffin does, there's an intelligence and musicality to it that just elevates the scope and possibilities of whatever he's involved in. Whether reinventing Christmas music with longtime foils Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, carving out a unique piece of the sonic universe with his own stellar band Mu'tet, or dropping in high quality studio turns for a crazy diverse array of artists that includes Umphrey's McGee, Dixie Chicks, John Scofield, Garth Brooks, Chris Thile and countless others, Jeff Coffin is always an exciting, indestructibly fine player, one of the best out there - no caveats required. (Dennis Cook)

Here's what Jeff had to say to our inquiries.

1. Great music rarely happens without...
LISTENING (I would say it never happens without this).

2. The first album I bought was...
Tom Scott & the L.A. Express.

3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was...
Anything by the Tuvan throat singing group Alash.

4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be...
A musician.

5. My favorite sort of gig is...
One that has great players, an intimacy onstage, a great chemistry and killing tunes with great melodies. Oh, and Afro-Cuban music. Love it!

6. One thing I wish people knew about me is...
I was never even close to the most talented players growing up, but I worked harder than most. It takes dedication and self-discipline to get better.

7. I love the sound of...
Bells. I have them in every room of my house and outside, and I even travel with them.

8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as...
Jan Garbarek's Folk Songs (with Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden).

9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at...
In Madrid, Spain at a castle with the Flecktones. Seven-plus courses, wine pairing, incredible chef, incredible people, incredible food, incredible city!

10. I always find the coolest audiences in...

11. The worst habit I've picked up being on the road all the time is...
Eating too late at night.

12. The Beatles or the Stones? Por qué?
The Beatles, by a long shot. Sorry, Mick. Better tunes, better melodies, more influences from other cultures, more sophistication of sound.

13. The craziest thing I ever saw was...
Watching Ornette Coleman play in his apartment in NYC on a few occasions. Completely and utterly mind-blowing.

JamBase | Breathing Life Into Things
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[Published on: 4/11/10]

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