There is no earthly reason why Lew Tabackin should be known only among the cognoscenti. Apart from being co-leading the iconic big band with his wife Toshiko Akiyoshi he has spearheaded may memorable ensembles including this wonderful trio with bassist Boris Kozlov and long-time associate and drummer Mark Taylor. But that is only name association. Tabackin’s sound is singular; one-of-a-kind and informed by an enormous tone-colour palette. He plays in mighty parabolic leaps with broad, gliding glissandos and terrifyingly beautiful, darting arpeggios and yet when his wonderfully mellifluous music demands his lines are simple and curves with but a hint of tremolo to finish them off. His playing claims it’s decent from Big Ben Webster and Sonny Rollins. All this means is that he has great lineage on the tenor saxophone. On flute he joins Eric Dolphy as one of the most virtuoso and mystical players on the instrument.
The word Soundscapes may sound like a common title; one you might have heard before in a multitude of situations, especially relating to music. But it has a very specific meaning with regard to this album of songs. It is an attempt to paint an endless canvas using mixed media, as it were. Here the tenor saxophone may stand for a broad, thicker brush and the music produced like viscous oils seemingly in an endless flow down the metamorphosing backdrop held in esteem by the finest jazz musicians. The flute, at Tabackin’s lips is as wet as the thin brush of a Japanese watercolour. Metaphorically speaking, then, this is a tale of the topographical journey that we sometimes call jazz. There are no troughs in this music that flows in a continuously cresting mass of oil and water, mixing as if by magic in the idiom of jazz.
One hardly misses that vocal content of music as Lew Tabackin literally sings on his two instruments. What genial phrasing, supple balances and effortless ensemble unanimity Tabackin enjoys with Kozlov and Taylor without getting overly loud when textures become thick on the tenor of wispy thin on the flute. Those little fluttering on slower tracks like Tabackin’s Minoru or Billy Strayhorn’s Day Dream and Duke Ellington’s Sunset and the Mockingbird suggest that the musicians might be mouthing a silent vocal as they play; such is the lyricism that flows from their respective instruments. Garden at Life Time transpires lightly and the muted delicacy of Sunset and the Mockingbird may be worth the price of the entire release.
By contrast, Tabackin’s and his trio’s clear and conscientious rendition of Afternoon in Paris and Yesterdays delivers on sweep and giddy abandon that one hears from great ensembles featuring great musicians of our time. However, the performance catches fire in the final peroration. While Three Little Words loses very little in transposition from the orchestral to the trio version, from the film of the same name, where the music was conducted by Andre Previn. It also loses nothing in this sparer more stripped down version. Lew Tabackin phrases the gentle loping dotted rhythms with idiomatic simplicity and grace. Buy this recording for the greatness of Lew Tabackin.
Track List: Afternoon in Paris; Garden at Life Time; B♭ Where It’s At; Minoru; Yesterdays; Day Dream; Sunset and the Mockingbird; Three Little Words.
Personnel: Lew Tabackin: tenor saxophone and flute; Boris Kozlov: bass; Mark Taylor: drums.
About Lew Tabackin
Lew Tabackin, flutist and tenor saxophonist, is an artist of astonishing vision. His electrifying flute playing is at once virtuosic, primordial, cross-cultural, and passionate. His distinctive tenor sax style includes the use of wide intervals, abrupt changes of mood and tempo, and purposeful fervour, all in the service of showing the full range of possibilities of his instrument – melodically, rhythmically, and dynamically. Without copying or emulating jazz greats of the past, Mr. Tabackin has absorbed elements into his style, ultimately creating his own sound and aura. Read more…