Western Skies – Michael Hackett/Tim Coffman Sextet featuring Sharel Cassity
From a salsa tribute of a McCoy Tyner tune, through a three-horn arrangement of a Tom Harrell tune, through solid originals, this sextet+ shines!
Hackett has composed and arranged some fantastic music here…
Michael Hackett – trumpet and flugelhorn
Tim Coffman – trombone
Sharel Cassity – alto saxophone
Jeremy Kahn – piano
Christian Dillingham – bass
Bob Rummage – drums
Arno Gonzalez – Timbale, guiro
Tony Castañeda – congas
The concept of the record is a tribute to Hackett’s father, who grew up in Western Montana. There is also a tribute of sorts, by Will Campbell, which was written to commemorate the passing of a mutual student, Casey Blackwelder. Casey graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the spring of 2017, and passed away suddenly on his 24th birthday, Father’s Day, June 18, 2017.
The band is a sextet (with Timbale, guiro and congos) with Tim Coffman (Chicago Jazz Orchestra/DePaul University) on trombone, Sharel Cassity (Roy Hargrove/Juilliard grad) on alto, Jeremy Kahn on piano, Christian Dillingham (jazz bass proff at IU), and Bob Rummage on drums. The majority of the recording is original music with some three horn arrangements of the Tom Harrell Tune, “Little Dancer” and the McCoy Tyner tune “You Taught My Heart to Sing.”
Coffman and Hackett have known each other for for nearly 40 years and played in David Bakers top jazz ensemble at Indiana University during the 1980s.
Dr. Michael Hackett has performed extensively with touring entertainers and pops orchestras across the country backing up artists such as Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, and Perry Como. His playing has been featured in many national television and radio commercials, the movie sound track to “The Aviator,” and many commercially available recordings, including those with Scott Whitfield’s Jazz Orchestra East on Summit.
With trumpet and trombone leading the way for this Chicago-centric ensemble based around pals that met 40 years ago in the Indiana University jazz program, you just have to strap yourself in for a round rogering of some horny swinging. True jazzbos delivering true jazz, they deliver the kind of oomph that can turn any klutz into a finger popping daddio. Sweet throughout.
Trombonist Tim Coffman and trumpet/flugelhorn man Michael Hackett lead a bopping team of Sharel Cassity/as, Jeremy Kahn/p, Christian Dillingham/dr, Arno Gonzalez/tim-perc and Tony Castaneda/cong through an easy swinging set of originals and a cover or two. Coffman’s slide is sweet and upbeat around Kahn’s keys on a sleekly latinized take of McCoy Tyner’s “You Taught My Hart To Sing” while Hackett’s trumpet is Kenny Dorham sweet on “Twenty Four”. Cassity’s lithe alto is featured well, gliding around Hackett’s polished flugelhorn on the modal “Little Dancer” and the warm title track, framed by Kahn’s autumnal piano. The horns swagger on “Esox Fables” and give some mellow soul on “We The People”. Fresh flavors.
Trombonist, Tim Coffman first met trumpeter, Michael Hackett in the fall of 1983 when they both were playing in the Indiana University School of Music jazz ensemble under the direction of David Baker. They’ve been friends ever since. This album began with a composition Dr. Michael Hackett wrote for his father who passed away in 2019. It is the title tune. He also decided to tribute a young student who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the spring of 2017 and unfortunately was dead in June of that same year. The student was only twenty-four. Dr. Hackett’s friend and colleague, Will Campbell, wrote the piece and it was titled “Twenty-four” to tribute Casey Blackwelder’s years on earth. It’s a Latin flavored composition with a pretty melody. Tim Coffman’s trombone makes a strong improvisational statement. Once the sextet was formed and they began to record songs, this project grew from two to eight songs. Tim has written the first song, “Blues for MH” and it swings hard, at a medium tempo. It also gives each player a chance to strut their stuff. Sharel Cassity appears on alto saxophone and presents a powerfully impressive solo. Jeremy Kahn is spontaneous and creative during his piano solo, followed by Christian Dillingham during his bass interpretation. Bob Rummage takes several bars to explore his drums and both Dr. Hackett and Tim Coffman shine on their respective horns. Hackett has formidable composing skills and Coffman is a sensitive arranger. Their blended talents offer us a pleasing product. “Esox Fables” is one of my favorites on this production, with its bright tempo followed by the title tune, “Western Skies.” Here’s a lovely tune, with Michael Hackett’s horn stage front, singing his pain and pleasure through the bell of his horn and an outstanding piano tribute by Jeremy Kahn. The one cover tune is a McCoy Tyner composition, “You Taught My Heart to Sing” and is arranged with a dancing Latin beat. This is a good, solid jazz production from beginning to end.
Western Skies, which could more accurately be called “Mid-Western Skies”, is co-led by trumpeter Michael Hackett and trombonist Tim Coffman, both alumni of David Baker’s renowned jazz program at Indiana University, the band with Cassity, Jeremy Kahn (piano, keyboards), Christian Dillingham (bass) and Bob Rummage (drums). Hackett wrote four and arranged one other of the eight tracks, with Coffman arranging two and writing the other. Some of the tracks—“Blues for MH”, “Esox Fables”, the title ballad—are straightahead mainstream modern, typical of the jazz produced in middle American colleges, but elevated by the cogent solos of the co-leaders and Cassity. Three tracks are enlivened by two added AfroLatin percussionists, Arno Gonzalez (timbale, guiro) and Tony Castañeda (congas), the standout a Hackett salsa arrangement of McCoy Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart to Sing”. Two of those tunes and the power ballad closer, “We the People”, feature Kahn on electric keyboard while the latter also features Cassity in two compelling solos.
-New York City Jazz Record