Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Album Review: Dennis Coffey - Live at Baker's

Dennis Coffey
Live at Baker's
***and1/2 out of *****

You have heard Dennis Coffey play even if you do not recognize the name. Coffey was the guitar player in the Funk Brothers, the famed Detroit session musicians who were the backbone of Motown. Coffey has played with Edwin Star, The Supreme's and RtBE's favorite contribution from him, the killer funked up wah-wah funk guitar on "Cloud 9" by the Temptations, as well as countless other tunes. This live album captures he and his band back in 2006 and is a collection of jazzy/funky instrumentals.

This is the third vault release from Coffey (the first two being Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin' at Morey Baker's Showplace Lounge and One Night at Morey's: 1968) and the first of his to showcase himself as a band leader. Coffey still has the skills even in old(er) age and while he shines on Live at Baker's his supporting cast is pretty top notch as well.  Gayelynn McKinney on drums, Demetrius Nabors on keys, Damon Warmick on bass round out his quartet and allow Coffey to run off-kilter or funky at his choosing.

The setlist from this instrumental live set focuses mostly on jazz and soul covers, kicking off with the quartet's take on Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" and "Chicago Song" by Marcus Miller. The bands sound dips into smooth jazz adult contemporary at times, but the exciting playing, lead by Coffey manages to mix things up at the right times.

Never afraid to stretch out the group takes their own unique approach to the jazz standard "Moonlight In Vermont" with some warbling lead lines from Coffey which are skittering and experimental. The group drop into a famous tune the front-man originally recorded for Hitsville, USA, "Just My Imagination" letting it flow for over ten minutes weaving in and out of funky soul and experimental jazz.

The highlight of this release hands down is the quartets take on the Coffey original, and his only hit, "Scorpio". This tune which reached the top ten in 1971 and has been sampled by tons of artists, is hot during this rendition, blazing from the get up. The funky riffing and angular playing from Coffey leads the charge as McKinney drum fills, push things along; a brilliant live rendition captured for posterity. 

Other highlights are the groups tasty take on the Miles Davis "All Blues" which allows Warmick to lay down a robust bass line while the band swirls in Grateful Dead psychedelic fashion before album closer "Dinks Blues" briefly allows Coffey one final toying with his pedals as the band rolls along proving this crew can keep this funky/jazzy style up all night long.
Support the artist, buy the record and peep some video below:

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