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Tim Coffman Interview

"I don't look at it as being financially viable. It may not be financially viable. That is not my criteria. My criterion is it must be done." These are hardly the words you would expect to hear from an established music producer, composer and artist but that is what San Diego based Tim Coffman said when I spoke to him recently. Tim, maybe you said that because it was 6:30 in the morning. Perhaps you really didn't mean to say that. Yet this highly regarded mainstream Jazz guru plunged into the deep end with another statement, "It is something that I have the resources to do. I will put my own personal resources into it if need be in order to do it."
Coffman was speaking to me about his desire to create a follow-up disc to his 2003 release of the Worship Remixes CD. "The criteria are to find those people that I consider to be up and coming artists that are just getting into the flow. They are speaking to their generation of 18-25 year olds. (It is about) giving them a voice." He said he hopes to help emerging artists get their career untracked.
To fully appreciate Coffman's remarks the reader needs to understand this is a man who has been around the mainstream music scene since the early 1960's and is the owner of Rolltop Music a California-based music company. His CD Nonstop To Paris (2005) has owned the European Jazz album charts during the past year. His 2005 release of Music From Beach Boulevard preceded by the funkier Beach and Guitar (2004) married the sounds of retro and new surfer music with the mellower strains of Hawaiian steel guitars.
Despite all of his success in the mainstream market and having worked with some of the best artists in the industry Coffman has maintained a special place for worship music. I wondered why that is and was pleasantly surprised by his answer. Coffman provided me with a bit of a personal history trek. 
He worked with several Christian artists and bands during the 'eighties. In addition, he was one of the founders behind the Christian Music Association and published Prime Focus. He said, "After helping do that for seven years I realized that Christian music wasn't really accomplishing the goals that I felt it needed to accomplish. There were a lot of really good shows but it was really moving towards a secular posture. I am not even going to be critical of that, all I am simply saying is it was not the direction that I wanted to go."
"About that time I met a guy named Kent Henry in the late 'eighties and early 'nineties. He was a well known worship leader from the Midwest. I went to one of his nights of worship. I had always been interested in worship music where there is a tremendous amount of outpouring and everybody in the congregation is singing. That is quite a different experience than a band up on stage. (A band) is doing all the work for you and you are just sitting there as a person in the audience being entertained. That is a great experience as well but when you are in a worship experience everybody is involved. I was at this thing with Kent Henry and there were about 2,000 people in attendance. They were all singing and all worshipping. I thought to myself, this is what's real. This is it right here. I really began to pursue that whole idea of worship music. I am hoping to complete another Worship Remixes album this coming year (2006)."
I had recently read several articles that talked about the role jazz music is playing in reshaping the face of worship services throughout the United States. I thought I would query Coffman concerning his thoughts on the subject. 
"In my mind the style of the music is not nearly as important as the only thing that is important and that is (asking) whether the Holy Spirit is there. The reason I say that is because you could be banging on chairs and praising God and it works if the Holy Spirit is there. If He is not working in the midst of that group of people at that time it doesn't really matter what the style of music is. I know there is a push on jazz but jazz alone will not get you to God. It will not significantly make your worship experience any better. Only the Holy Spirit and the surrender to Him will really make the experience a valid one."
The interest in worship music has influenced at least one of his children. Daughter Julie, who first appeared on the 2003 Worship Remixes CD, will also contribute to the tracks on the upcoming album. Julie Coffman has an outstanding voice and spent several years touring as part of a worship band.
Coffman continued, "This may sound surprising but I don't put as much credence in style of music as I do the soul of music. Soul to me means when your heart is connected to your voice. What is inside of you is flowing through your instrument." 
He also likes to experiment and incorporate many different styles into his own music. He says that it broadens his audience. For Coffman, though, it goes much deeper; he is not merely content to create milquetoast music. Arising from his passion for innovation was the development of a new genre that first appeared with Beach and Guitar and Music From Beach Boulevard.
Coffman used recording equipment and gear from the early 'sixties to achieve the sound he was looking for with both albums. "What I wanted to do was (arrive at) an original sound and then print it to digital. I then wanted to change it somewhat so (I used) original gear and original microphones. When you listen to (the CD) it evokes the feeling from that time period. There are also enough new things going on that it sounds pretty modern in some ways."
Guitarist Paul Johnson, whose group the Belairs helped pioneer surf music in the 'sixties, appeared on Beach and Guitar. Johnson is probably better known for his work with the Surfaris, the group that gave us the legendary instrumental "Wipeout." The song features the best drum solo ever recorded. 
While the earlier album also boasts traces of spy and funk tunes, Music From Beach Boulevard is a little more ethereal. You can close your eyes, tilt your head back and imagine warm sand making its way between your toes, the taste of salt in the air and soaking up some rays.
Coffman assembled an all star cast for Nonstop To Paris. Appearing on the tracks are; Mitch Manker (Hootie and the Blowfish, Fattburger, Ray Charles) appears on trumpet as he did on Music From Beach Boulevard. Also doing double duty for both albums are guitarists T.J. Tindall (Bonnie Raitt, O'Jays) and Anthony Da Luz. The outstanding saxophone work of John Rekevics (Natalie Cole) seems almost a prerequisite for Coffman's productions because of this brass man's outstanding work. Coffman also appears playing several different instruments on his productions.
In response to my question concerning where Coffman thinks the music industry is headed he replied, "I can tell you where it should go. Where it should go is towards more experimentation. It should go towards more honesty. It's funny. We have all these new tools as musicians. You really don't have to use your imagination as much as you used to. It is not allowing us to get deep creativity. We have a lot of very shallow creativity but not real deep things. If you go back into the 'fifties, 'forties, 'thirties and 'twenties, you find a lot of very deep composition. When you look at the chord changes and melodies it is extremely deep and extremely hard. It is hard to play for an average musician. I think we need to go back and get deeper into our songwriting, deeper in our production and still (retain) the same spontaneity. Does that make any sense?"
Tim Coffman is a composer who is not afraid to color outside the lines, sometimes in pastels, sometimes in more vivid colors.
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 


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