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Jazz Reviews : Lew Tabackin--Creative Power at Vine St.

Lew Tabackin might be said to have two dual personalities: as a saxophonist and flutist, but also as the key soloist in Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band and as leader of his own trio. Wednesday evening at the Vine Street Bar & Grill he brought renewed evidence of his creative power in the intimate three-man setting, with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Bill Goodwin as his capable partners.

On tenor sax, Tabackin has the ability to shift from a hard-driving ferocity to melodic basics within the context of a single chorus. At one moment he may suggest the grit and gristle of Sonny Rollins, at another the tender splendor of an early idol, Ben Webster.

There were hints of Webster’s famous solo on “Chelsea Bridge,” which began with a long unaccompanied series of cadenzas. This Billy Strayhorn masterwork has difficult blowing changes, but there seems to be no song too complex for Tabackin’s master brush strokes.

On several tunes he opened, and often closed, with a solo foray that offered no indication of what composition he had in mind. The Duke Ellington “Serenade to Sweden” is a tranquil melody to which the trio was faithful for the first 16 bars, but it inexplicably erupted into a staccato waltz beat for the bridge of each chorus.

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Tabackin’s flute, always the medium for some of his most beguiling expressions, was heard only once, on his own minor waltz “Desert Lady,” with Anderson furnishing an attractive bass vamp undercurrent. The piece, which achieved a quasi-Asian quality, was inspired by a Japanese movie.

Tabackin’s capacity for swinging and a totally personal manner was buoyantly illustrated on a cooking version of “Three Little Words.” The group closes tonight.


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