Tim Coffman: Crossroads (2005)

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Tim Coffman: Crossroads
Crossroads gives hope for the future of the jazz mainstream and ultimately for our society itself. If that statement seems like a grand overstatement, then you are in for a thrill when you hear how the straightforward, exciting and joyous way that Coffman and his band play his compositions and arrangements.

Maintaining an ideal mix of band sections with solo space (both with and without band interjections), Coffman's arrangements never allow a moment of flabbiness, but neither do they feel busy or over manipulative. To be able to create music that is so solidly mainstream in its components and yet so exciting and attention-grabbing is a real achievement.

The program ranges from older classics like "Caravan," "Alone Together" and "My Old Flame" to hard bop pieces like J.J. Johnson's "Lament" and Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive," as well as modern jazz tunes by such players as Wayne Shorter ("Yes Or No"), Joe Henderson ("Step Lightly") and Tom Harrell ("Sail Away"), plus the title tune by Coffman.

The sextet, which is extremely tight in an effortless way, exudes a palpable joy and camaraderie, along with a willingness to take chances. When an arrangement draws back and a soloist takes his shot, real magic happens. Trumpeter Scott Wendholt, saxophonist Mark Colby and pianist Mike Kocour make every note count with a sparkling unpredictability that makes the knowing listener nod and smile.

Coffman's original title track has a very nice mix of pungent harmonies and open structure. Colby's soprano sax weaves around the harmony, playing inside and outside, before handing things over to Kocour, who plays with the rhythm, just asking bassist Kelly Sill and drummer Bob Rummage to shift—but they do not, creating fleeting tension.

Coffman is a very adept trombonist with a silky tone and clean articulation. While this is his record, and he does take solos, his arrangements are what shine and attract attention. Even if the arrangement of "Caravan" is less than shockingly new—how does one top Ellington?—Crossroads is a breath of fresh air. Open your windows, put this on, let the sun shine in and feel what the joy of jazz is about.

Track Listing: Yes Or No; Sail Away; Step Lightly; Crossroads; My Old Flame; Summer In Central Park; Sky Dive; Lament; Caravan; Alone Together.

Personnel: Tim Coffman: trombone, arranger; Scott Wendholt: trumpet; Mark Colby: tenor and soprano saxophone; Mike Kocour: piano; Kelly Sill: bass; Bob Rummage: drums.

Record Label: Blujazz Productions

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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