Lew Tabackin—The Evolution of a Jazz Artist

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I first heard Lew Tabackin play on an album called “Introducing Duke Pearson’s Big Band,” released in 1967. Lew took an extended tenor solo on New Girl that remains to this day one of my favorite sax solos within the context of a big band. Since that experience, I have purchased many albums with Lew as a sideman and as a leader and have never been disappointed. Lew is a virtuoso saxophonist and flutist who continues to probe the possibilities of varied expressions on both instruments. He is also deeply committed to preserving the musical identities of some of the greatest tenor players in history—Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Don Byas, Al Cohn, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. He has absorbed elements of their playing into his own unique voice and style. On the flute, he displays the same type of reverence for many of the classical giants he has heard and studied (William Kincaid, Jean-Pierre Rampal, and Julius Baker) and found a way to make use of their concepts for tone and resonance within a jazz context. I experienced another side of Lew when he and Toshiko were the featured guests a number of years ago with the university big band that I directed. They proved to be exceptional music educators, working diligently and offering encouragement to the students during the rehearsals while still demanding the standards of professionalism that the music industry mandates. Lew has also been involved with the Jazz Foundation of America for many years, helping elderly jazz musicians in need of support. He remains the consummate musician, always looking to play and stimulating those around him by his passion for music. I think you’ll hear that same degree of commitment and love for music expressed in our interview. Please visit Lew’s website at: www.lewtabackin.com for more information.