Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lew Tabakin at Small's Tonight & Tomorrow

In the late 70s and early 80s, the Lew Tabakin/Toshiko Akioshi Big Band was--well--big! They toured constantly with the namesake (and married) front players blowing away audiences worldwide with their unique mix of sounds: Tabakin alternately blowing a big fat tenor sax or singing like a bird on flute; while Akioshi tickled the ivories playing alternately delicately and fierce. I can still recall the astounding sound of her strange chord progressions, so outside, yet so in the groove when I saw the band perform in 1978. I can also recall writing a review of the same show in which I called Tabakin's flute playing "breathy," pissing off the Tabakin-adoring members of the high school jazz band. Oh, well. In the 80s, Tabakin won multiple DownBeat awards for his flute playing. I can only assume he cleaned it up after reading my review! (Yeah, right: Listen, the man's a genius).

Now he's back with a trio, playing tonight and Thursday at Small's (West 10th St. next to 7th Ave.), as a warm up for an August 1st through 4th stand at Birdland, with special guest--you guest it!--Toshiko Akiyoshi.

I stopped by Small's tonight while the gig was in progress and chatted with the doorman. Asked him how the crowd was. "Well, know--it's jazz." How about the new music of the great Lew Tabakin? "His music has gotten a lot more spiritual." Oh? "Well, let me put it this way...I love autoharp. But not the way Alice Coltrane plays it." A-ha! A hardcore be-bop man! Must be a drummer. They always get the shaft when the front players turn spiritual. Or maybe a violin player?

Not entirely convinced, or perhaps because I'm not opposed to a dose of spirituality in music now and then, I plan to head to Small's for the Thursday 9 pm show. See Lew again. Check out his flute playing, and report back. The most exciting thing of all will be the chance to check out Small's itself, which, since being sold to piano player Spike Wilner in April has improved its sound system and its schedule, but kept the intimacy for which it's famous. It's about 1/2 the size of the Village Vanguard and has such a homey feel you get the feeling you're visiting a close friend. Admission is $20, which includes a drink. Hope to see you there.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Wow, thanks for letting me know. I saw/heard Tabakin at a tiny East Village cafe last summer quite by accident. Loved it.