Mu’tet sits in with student musicians
Updated: November 26, 2012 6:11AM
GLENCOE — About 30 members of the Central School Band were playing in the orchestra pit, in-tune and energetic, brassy and boisterous.
Like most school bands, they made you think of football.
Then Jeff Coffin, saxophonist for Dave Matthews Band, quietly stepped in with them, and started to blow.
Most of the young players’ faces stayed eyes-front. They knew he was going to do that, but with every second, more of them couldn’t resist sneaking a glance. Those whose hearts were set to music – that part of each of them probably moved to the right, too.
The notes coming out of the saxophone were so warm and expressive that they seemed to embrace the kids’ music and lift it.
The audience of over 600 kids and teachers and mooching-fan parents made sounds, too — the kind you hear when pleasure can’t be contained.
The feeling of playing with pros, and the experience of their skills lifting yours, was the reason Central band boss Matt Pickett had wangled the Oct. 17 visit by three-time Grammy-winner Coffin and his “Mu’tet” (the Mutation Quartet) band: five-time Grammy-winning drummer Roy “Futureman” Wooten, bassist Felix Pastorius and on keyboards, Chris “The Pianimator” Walters.
After a couple of joint tunes, eight of the kids got on stage and swapped solos with the members of the Mu’tet.
The kids were calm, no jumping up and down. Afterward, there were autographs and a little idol-worship.
In between, the Mu’tet played a couple of their own songs, and then asked for questions.
There were lots of questions.
“Are you better than Mr. Pickett?” one brave wag asked Coffin.
“I don’t think of one person being a better musician than another,” he said. “They’re different.”
Working the sound board was a friend and big fan of Pickett’s, Ron Pedersen, the high school and middle school band teacher in Burlington, Wis.
“He student-taught with me in Burlington,” Pedersen said.
A friend of the Mu’tet players, too, Pedersen had brought Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet to Burlington – where they’ve been before – for a $10-a-ticket show Monday. He helped Pickett get the Mu’tet to Glencoe, on their way back home to Nashville, Tenn.
Pickett had heard the band was playing at Evanston’s Space on Oct. 16, called his pal and the plan came together.
It’s not that unusual for the band to play a school auditorium.
“We’ve done about 300 of these,” Coffin said after the show. “It’s the most important thing we do.”
The kids in the cheap seats get to hear new kinds of music – the band’s instrumental riffs connect about a dozen genres, from rhythm and blues to classical – grow in their appreciation of music beyond One Direction, Taylor Swift and Ke$ha, et al.
“This is the next generation of the audience,” Coffin said.
At the end of the performance, young musician William Kendall pronounced the experience “Awesome.
“It’s really fun to play with someone who’s a lot better than you.”
“Not better,” cut in bandmate Ruben Greenstein.