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When I first decided to write about Lew Tabackin, it was with the (mistaken) thought that a musician who plays both tenor sax and flute is a rare thing. In the course of my research for this article, I have had my eyes opened.

For  specifics, check out the Tabackin interview below conducted in 2006 by Dr. Edward Joffe, whose web site is devoted to what he called “woodwind doubling.” Doublers aren’t exactly found on every corner, but neither are they as rare as I thought.

Lew Tabackin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 26, 1940. He began playing flute when he was 12 because it was the only instrument available at his school. A few years later when he was in high school, Tabackin heard saxophonist Al Cohn and he fell in love with Cohn’s sound. He then made up his mind to take up the tenor sax. He was 15 years old and, the rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years Tabackin has played with many jazz greats, including Thad Jones, Donald Byrd, Maynard Ferguson, Clark Terry, and in Doc Severinson’s “Tonight Show Band” and the “Dick Cavett Show Band.” He often appears with his wife, Toshiko Akiyoshi, a noted composer, arranger and pianist.

Tabackin also appeared as a sideman on one album you can find a previous review of here, JFASN # 145, Bennie Wallace’s “The Art Of The Saxophone.”

The Tabackin album I want to tell you about today was released on the Concord Jazz label in 1992 and is called “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Lew Tabackin Quartet "I'll Be Seeing You" (1992)

Lew Tabackin Quartet “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1992)

This all-star outing boasts the following “A-List” personnel, all of whom have also appeared on other albums reviewed here:

Lew Tabackin, flue and tenor sax
Benny Green, piano
Peter Washington, bass
Lewis Nash, drums

“I’ll Be Seeing You” runs around fifty-nine minutes and in that time Tabackin and company treat us to nine songs from various composers. The album opens with “I Surrender Dear,” which might be subtitled “Lament Of the Outsmarted Husband.” Or not. Ahem. J Any way, “I Surrender Dear” was written in the 1930’s by Gordon Clifford and Harry Barris and was first recorded by Bing Crosby. Tabackin’s version has a mellow opening that soon gives way to a fast-moving romp that allows everyone to show their stuff.

“I Surrender Dear” is followed by the John Coltrane composition, “Wise One.” This is the first we hear Tabackin on his flute, and it does give a sort of ethereal touch to the song. Coltrane’s original was more a lament than anything, and Tabackin’s cover pretty much follows Coltrane’s lead.

Next we have the title song, the Sammy Fain-Irving Kahal standard “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The first time I remember hearing this song was in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. (Full disclosure: I love “DS9.” It was the first TV series whose complete boxed set I purchased.) In several episodes toward the end of the series, singer James Darren played a holographic 1960’s era crooner called Vic Fontaine, and “I’ll Be Seeing You” was part of Vic’s repertoire. At first I didn’t recognize Tabackin’s version of the song, because his take is much more upbeat than Vic Fontaine’s. Sometimes finding a thing is not what you expected can be good, however. Not that I expect ever to stop liking Fontaine’s version, but Tabackin and the boys definitely take the song to another level.

Skipping ahead, we come to “Chic Lady,” the only tune here written by Tabackin’s wife, the aforementioned Toshiko Akiyoshi. Tabackin returns to the flute for this one, to good effect. Everyone gets his turn in the lead here, and even the inevitable drum solo pleases the ear.

“Chic Lady” is followed by “Perhaps,” a Charlie Parker song I had never heard of before. “Perhaps” is a great little song, and once again every player is given his moment in the limelight. Tabackin is back on his tenor for this one and gives us some great blowing. Washington’s bass solo is a high point to listen for.

The last song I have time to write about this time is Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud.” This is an energetic bit of music where everyone pulls out all the stops. Nash gets a short drum solo towards the end, then everyone comes in for the ending.

When it’s all said and done, Lew Tabackin’s album “I’ll Be Seeing You” will definitely make a fantastic addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!

To learn more about Lew Tabackin and his music, his web site (maintained by someone else) would be a good place to start.

There is also a nice bio of Tabackin on NPR’s web site.

A couple of articles about Tabackin playing both sax and flute: One here, and Dr. Edward Joffe of Joffe Woodwinds interviews Tabackin in 2006. The latter being the one I mentioned earlier about “woodwind doubling.”

And last but not least, Tim Price Interviews Tabackin in this undated interview.

Thanks for reading this.

Al Evans
Wood Village, Oregon

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