"Live at Baker’s"
Dennis Coffey recorded ten solo albums from 1969-1978, at the same time he was busy at Motown working with legendary musicians like Norman Whitfield’s latter day (extended jamming) Temptations. Coffey worked alongside behind-the-scenes session players like: Joe Podorsek, Ray Monette, Bob Babbitt, Pistol Allen and Uriel Jones, Earl Van Dyke, and Jack Ashford. Coffey’s recent new recording output has been significant of late with his live releases “Hot Coffey in the D” from 2017 that was originally recorded in 1968, and 2018’s “One Night at Morey’s” that also was captured in 1968. And now Coffey’s latest album “Live at Baker’s” was originally performed in 2006 and has been released nearly thirteen years later on the Omnivore label. It features covers by Freddie Hubbard, Marcus Miller, Norman Whitfield, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis, Wilton Felder of the Crusaders, Brother Jack McDuff, Coffey’s classic “Scorpio” and the standard “Moonlight in Vermont.” Coffey’s band included; Demetrius Nabors (keyboards,) Gaelynn McKinney (drums) and Damon Warmack (bass.)
What’s immediately apparent on “Live at Baker’s” is the clean audio sound, plus it also displays Coffey’s evolved growth as a headier guitarist. The lengthy opener (10:54) is Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” which is stunningly covered, Coffey is expressive throughout; his backing band is intuitive adding their own colorful support from end to end. Marcus Miller’s “Chicago Song” bounces along with potent wah-wah from Coffey’s guitar. Ah Coffey’s own “Scorpio” is next its his signature (hit) tune that’s well treated here and particularly percolated by keyboardist Demetrious Nabors and the entire band. The standard “Moonlight in Vermont” is an interesting inclusion that has several beautiful moments. This rendition of Norman Whitfield’s Just My Imagination” by the Temptations utilizes some of Coffey’s original techniques that he brought when they initially recorded it for Motown during the early seventies; I’m also digging the extra room and space Coffey’s given to take time (10:16) to fly-over and soar with his telepathic band. Checkout the vamp on Jimmy Smith’s classic “The Sermon,” it’s a groove I could drive all the way from my home in New York straight into the Motor City without making any stops. Speaking of classics; how ‘bout covering Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” and Wilton Felder’s (of the Crusaders) “Way Back Home,” these three versions are some of my all-time favorite Soul-Jazz-Blues tunes. Closing out this superb recording is Brother Jack McDuff’s “Dink’s Blues” another classy road-worthy traveling music tune, and a tasty way to end the evening.
All in all this is a very solid recording that offers well-chosen covers and a original, all performed with top-shelf musicians who are given ample time to play on and shine. By the way: My Mack Ave. Records rep tells me Dennis Coffey should also be releasing a brand-new album for the Detroit based label. I say bring it on, though until that time; enjoy “Live at Baker’s” it’s a good one.
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