Who is Dennis Coffey? In this period of Adderall attention spans, Dennis Coffey is this: The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" (Gordy, 1970); Edwin Starr's "War" (Gordy, 1970); Diana Ross and the Supremes' "Someday We'll be Together" (Motown, 1969). Does that ring a bell? I know everyone talks about the West Coast's "Wrecking Crew," but, Detroit had its "Funk Brothers" and a head brother was one Dennis Coffey.
Coffey eventually became a ubiquitous presence in the Detroit music scene where he, in addition to being a session guitarist, was a producer, arranger, and all-around recording utility infielder. Coffey had personal leader success with his 1971 release "Scorpio." While not a full-blown household name, Coffey, like Glen Campbell, Leno Russell, Joe Messina, and Joe Hunter, contributed to an era music that has since become part of our artistic DNA, deserving to be recognized as such. Resonance Records, always guaranteed to provide compelling, never released music, that is eye opening. Hot Coffey in the DBurnin; at Morey Baker's Showplace Lounge
captures Coffey with B-3 specialist Lyman Woodard
and drummer Melvin Davis
gaining professional traction in 1968, right in between the "Summer of Love" and Altamont.
It is the two organ-trio cookers, "Fuzz" and "The Big D" that provide absolute period delight. Both based on simple harmonic structures, these songs provide an aural fingerprint of the late 1960s. this is not Jimmy Smith
's or Big John Patton
's organ trio. This is not greasy chicken-shack jazz, it is the collision between the jazz organ trio and the rock and soul music of the time. Coffey employs echoplex and wah-wah technologies to achieve his dirty rock sound on these two show percolators.
The "standards" are equally telling and appropriate to the period. Coffey cleans up his sound for "By the Time I get to Phoenix" and an extended consideration of "The Look of Love" the disc's center point. It is summer languid and beautifully spacy. The group demonstrates their jazz bona fides on Herbie Hancock
's "Maiden Voyage," released just two years before these performances. The disc closes with a burning funk invocation of the spiritual "Wade in the Water." This is a tonal postcard reminding us how it was in Oz so many years ago.