If the name Dennis Coffey only faintly rings a bell, it's because the guitarist was a member of the ensemble know as The Funk Brothers, the studio session crew who supplied the musicianship at the heart of Motown classics. Like many of his brethren, Coffey often availed himself of the opportunity to venture outside the confines of the recording studio to inhabit clubs and Hot Coffee in the D
is just such an expedition (the similar likes of which, perhaps not coincidentally, earned him the hit "Scorpio" in the same year of these dates). Recorded in 1968 at Morey Baker's Showcase Lounge in the Motor City, it features Coffey in stripped-down tandem with Hammond B3 organist Lyman Woodard and drummer Melvin Davis offering a slate of popular tunes of the day, all of which they render with as much relish as taste.
In the hands and hearts of this like-minded trio, there's no mistaking numbers such as Jimmy Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix"-where the trio apply an exquisitely delicate touch-or Burt Bacharach
's "The Look of Love." By the same token, however, the nuances of such melodies, as well as the rhythms to which they're wedded, glimmer in the light of new-found perspective(s) such as the alternately soothing and insistent organ lines in the arrangement of the latter. The near twelve-minute duration of that performance allows for more expansive exploration than the remainder of the cuts on this CD that run their course at seven-to-eight minute marks, but, as with the courageous choice of Herbie Hancock
's "Maiden Voyage," it becomes clear Coffey & company's studio experience has taught them to make their statements (relatively) short and to the point.
Coffey. Woodard and Davis know how to give each other space, but also how to nudge each other instrumentally and, most importantly, when to take such action. On the opener "Fuzz, " for instance, the keyboardist and drummer open and close around the guitarist as he demonstrates one of the sonic techniques (referenced in the title) he utilized for, among others, The Temptations
and The Supremes. And their clean uncluttered playing of the rhythm section (sic) only accentuates the distortion coming from their comrade, who plays with pristine tone similar to that which they adopt there, on the peppy closer "Wade in the Water."
Inside the enclosed glossy fifty-six page (!) booklet, a palpable sense of pride radiates from both the interviews and essays, content that complements an array of photos as well as the lighthearted custom artwork of Bill Morrison (The Simpsons, Futurama) that adorns the cover of the digi-pak. Hot Coffee in the D
may be something of a sleeper jazz title, but its prospective durability makes it worth waking up to.
Fuzz; By The Time I Get to Phoenix; The Look of Love; Maiden Voyage; The Big D; Casanova (Your Playing Days are Over); Wade in the Water.