Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet

Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet

Musicians | Instrument: Band / ensemble / orchestra | Location: Austin

They can drift with meditative beauty or roar with passion and their collective sound lingers in the memory.

—Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz

Updated: May 5, 2024

Active since: 2021

Leading an ensemble whose members individually excel in several musical genres and, collectively, create a unique and memorable soundprint, saxophonist-flutist Coke and guitarist Michel bring together a group that includes Austin Symphony principal harpist Elaine Barber, pedal steel player Bob Hoffnar (Liminal Sound Series), double bassist James Suter, and percussionist Carolyn Trowbridge on vibes.

Performing compelling music with origins in jazz, classical, folk, extended technique and improvisation, this unique ensemble is an outgrowth of Coke and Barber's popular weekly Driveway Concert Series  that ran from April 2020 through June 2021.

Composer and instrumentalist Alex Coke received his B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1976, with an emphasis on flute performance, before becoming one of the original members of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra and a touring member of the renowned Dutch ensemble Willem Breuker Kollektief. With a distinctive sound and an inclination toward experimentation, Coke exemplifies the traditions pioneered by fellow Texas tenors and jazz flutists, while expanding the possibilities of extended technique. His projects as bandleader include Live Action Brass Band, Leadbelly Legacy Band, New Texas Swing with Tina Marsh, and the post-bop quintet, The Worthy Constituents with pianist and composer, Rich Harney. Coke’s extensive discography includes his many projects and his work as a featured soloist with The Austin Jazz Workshop, Greezy Wheels, White Denim, Maryann Price, Accra Trane Station, KlezEdge, Reeds and Deeds, and many others.

Elaine Barber is Principal Harpist of the Austin Symphony and a regular guest with San Antonio Symphony. She performs a wide range of chamber music, solos, new music and early music in Austin and Central Texas. She plays with Texas Early Music Project (medieval & renaissance), Austin Baroque Orchestra, Allegro Chamber Trio (classical), Cleo Trio (jazz), and has worked with artists as diverse as Renee Fleming, Gladys Knight, and Shearwater. She’s a passionate teacher and director of the Girl Scout Harp Ensemble, the only known Girl Scout troop made up entirely of harpists.

Pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar relocated to Austin from NYC in 2009 and has since become a major contributor to Austin’s cultural landscape. Originally from Silver Springs, Maryland, Hoffnar graduated from Purchase Conservatory of Music in 1998 with a BFA in Composition that included private studies with Richard Cameron Wolf. Further private studies included time with such musical luminaries as Lamonte Young, Pandit Pran Nath, and Ernest Tubb’s steel player Buddy Charelton. He currently runs the “Liminal Sound Series” which is a live concert performance series dedicated to the commissioning of new works and collaborations between visionary composers and Austin, TX. based musicians and performers.

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21
Album Review

Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet: Emergence

Read "Emergence" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Emergence, the latest album by the Texas-based Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet, is by and large chamber jazz, veering often into the realms of avant-garde and free improvisation. The standard of musicianship is high, the urge to listen a second time rather less so--an opinion that must be qualified by the admission that it expresses a neophyte's point of view. The question thus becomes, what can be said about such an enterprise, given one's basic unfamiliarity ...

7
Album Review

Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet: Emergence

Read "Emergence" reviewed by Jerome Wilson


The Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet expand their sound on this album, the follow-up to their debut, The Emissary, (Play On, 2022). Their unique instrumental blend of reeds, guitar, pedal steel, vibes, harp, and bass retains its ethereal charm while also pushing forward into fresh musical territory. “Bagatelle II," by Ukrainian composer, Valentin Silvestrov, sounds like a medieval folk song. Its melody is laid out by Michel's guitar and Coke's flute while Carolyn Trowbridge's vibraphone and the ...

2
Album Review

Alex Coke & Carl Michel: The Emissary

Read "The Emissary" reviewed by Jerome Wilson


With instrumentation that includes harp, pedal steel guitar and vibraphone, this album is clearly not meant to resemble a classic jazz session. Instead, it ambitiously incorporates jazz, medieval composition and exotic folk melodies into a hypnotically beautiful set of diverse rhythms and motifs. The most austere selection is “O Pastor Animarum" by 12th century composer, Hildegarde von Bingen. Here Carl Michel's guitar, Elaine Barber's harp, and Bob Hoffnar's pedal steel guitar combine into a thick, iridescent weave of ...

10
Album Review

Alex Coke & Carl Michel: The Emissary

Read "The Emissary" reviewed by Kyle Simpler


While much of the world was in lockdown during 2020, saxophonist Alex Coke and harpist Elaine Barber had an idea that caught on. They decided to bring their instruments out on the driveway of the Austin, Texas home they were sheltering in and play music while waiting for their groceries to be delivered. These impromptu concerts turned out to be popular and soon became weekly events. The Emissary grew out of these concerts. The Coke-Barber combination opened up ...

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Manipulating saxophones, flutes, guitar, bass, vibraphone, harp, and... atmospheric pedal steel, Coke and Michel sample catalogs of Leadbelly, Paul Motian, German abbess Hildegard von Bingen, and their own inventory to paint the tracks in grass green, sunset orange, and sky blue... reaching for the ethereal." --Michael Toland, Austin Chronicle

"They can drift with meditative beauty or roar with passion and their collective sound lingers in the memory. This is a unique and lovely album." --Jerome Wilson, All About Jazz

The Emissary is a unique album in many ways... It has a definite jazz foundation throughout encourag(ing) repeated listening. It has a calming and refreshing quality that invites listeners to discover a peaceful place within themselves. --Kyle Simpler, All About Jazz

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Wayne Shorter
saxophone
John Coltrane
saxophone
Steve Lacy
saxophone, soprano

CME

From: Emergence
By Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet

Sol Y Luna

From: The Emissary
By Alex Coke & Carl Michel Sextet