Sax phenom Jeff Coffin’s photography goes on display at the Nashville Jazz Workshop

Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin plays jazz with edge and attitude. Apparently, he takes photos the same way. At least, that’s the sense you get the moment you enter the Nashville Jazz Workshop, where some of Coffin’s digital prints are currently on display in a show called “Behind the Looking Glass.”

jeffCoffin, who teaches at the workshop, is best known for his ongoing stints with the Dave Matthews Band, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and Jeff Coffin and the Mu’Tet. What’s less well documented is his self-described “photography obsession.”

Over the years, he estimates he’s taken about 300,000 digital photos. Most were done with point-and-shoot cameras. About four years ago, he finally upgraded to a Canon 40D and has recently started acquiring more sophisticated lenses.

“For me, taking pictures is a lot like improvisation,” Coffin writes in his artist statement. “They both contain those beautiful moments of surprise and the unexpected.”

That’s an understatement, since I was hardly expecting to see a gorilla giving me the finger. Coffin’s digital print of this simian Johnny Cash is the first thing you see when you enter the NJW. One can only imagine what the saxophonist did to elicit that gesture. (To see the beast’s picture, click here, go to “Galleries” and scroll through the “Places N Things 1” slideshow.)

sonnyNaturally, some of Coffin’s best and most expressive photos are of fellow musicians. His print of Willie Nelson in concert is on display at the workshop, along with images of Dave Matthews and New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Coffin’s eye for the outlandish and surreal comes through in his photos of a Mardi Gras figure and an eerily winking doll. His appreciation of architecture has resulted in some of his most elegant prints – the show includes stylish images of European windows, facades and alleyways. He’s also documented some impressive urban art – I’m especially fond of his picture of a spray-painted Charlie Chaplin.

mardigras“Behind the Looking Glass” has an opening reception from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Nashville Jazz Workshop, 1319 Adams St. Coffin and the Mu’Tet will perform at this free event. Coffin’s photos will remain on display through May 2013. People interested in purchasing digital copies of the prints should contact Coffin here.

Photo credit: Jeff Coffin by Greg Kessler

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.