Dennis Coffey

One Night at Morey's: 1968

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2017's archival Resonance release of Hot Coffey in the D: Burnin' at Morey Baker's Showplace Lounge, was a healthy dose of Funk Brother Dennis Coffey's work with organist Lyman Woodard's trio at the famed Detroit venue in 1968. It caught the band reinventing soul, jazz, and funk covers and originals in their Motor City image to reveal a highly individual, collective, in-the-pocket exploratory artistry. The tapes were from Coffey's own vault, recorded and produced by longtime musical partner Mike Theodore.

The guitarist struck up a relationship with Cheryl Pawelski and her Omnivore label, then went back into the safe for One Night At Morey's: 1968. This is the other half of the gig on the earlier recording. The music here exists as it was recorded. There are no overdubs, and no tunes from the earlier volume are repeated. Unlike typical soul-jazz organ trios from the era, this music is raw: It is to jazz-funk what the MC5 and Stooges were to Detroit rock. As the band crosses from the opening rave-up of "I'm a Midnight Mover" to a brooding yet explosive cover of "Eleanor Rigby," it's easy to hear why. Coffey's playing in particular, with its signature fuzzy distortion and trademark funky wah-wah style, would be emulated by Isaac Hayes during the early '70s. They shift into groove-and-grind mode on their improvisational nine-minute read of the Meters' "Cissy Strut." The interplay between Woodard and drummer Melvin Davis is uncanny. The organist is tough and inventive with his left hand, laying down angular basslines that fly right at the drummer's taut breakbeats. Coffey's idiosyncratic tone inspires unusual and iconic phrasing that goes far afield; he travels inside a tune's harmony to bring out its nuances even when the band is reinventing the rhythmic structure. Check the simmering segue between the Young Rascals' staple "Groovin'" (where Woodard makes the organ virtually sing) and the rocked-up modal funk of Richard Evans' classic "Burning Spear" that winds on for nearly 14 minutes. This band delivers intense focus and so much passionate good-time energy, you can feel them. (In the liner note interview, Coffey claims no one danced to this music; they listened intently instead.) After a fuzzed-out, early Deep Purple-esque read of the Isley's "It's Your Thing" in a medley with the punchy original "Union Station," they stay with the homemade tunes that include the intensely psychedelic "Mindbender" and the rave-up soul of "Big City Lights" before closing on the jazz tip with a fingerpopping take on Charlie Parker's bop classic "Billie's Bounce," proving that the Lyman Woodard Trio could play virtually anything and play it well. Anyone wise enough to pick up the Resonance set will absolutely want this volume in order to fill out the hard-grooving trio's aural portrait. Anyone who hasn't yet will find One Night at Morey's: 1968 a fine -- perhaps preferable -- place to start. All killer, no filler.

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