Lew Tabackin, a virtuoso on both the tenor saxophone and flute, has spent decades carving out his unique path in the world of jazz. Born in Philadelphia in 1940, Tabackin’s extensive career is characterized by a deep dedication to his craft, unwavering individuality, and a distinctive approach to both of his chosen instruments.
Tabackin’s early musical education was rich and varied, beginning with lessons on the piano, clarinet, and flute before he discovered his love for the tenor saxophone. After studying flute at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, Tabackin moved to New York City in the early 1960s. Here he found himself in the vibrant heart of the jazz world, where he began to hone his unique approach to playing.
In New York, Tabackin quickly established himself as a versatile musician, comfortable in a variety of settings. His unique style – at once bold and lyrical – began to take shape during this period, influenced by saxophone greats like Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Sonny Rollins. On the flute, his approach was heavily influenced by the French school of playing, demonstrating a seamless blend of his classical training with his jazz sensibilities.
A key part of Tabackin’s career has been his long-time musical and life partnership with trombonist and composer Toshiko Akiyoshi. Together, they led the Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band, a critically acclaimed ensemble that was a powerful force in the jazz world from the early 1970s through the mid-2000s. In this ensemble, Tabackin was the primary soloist, showcasing his ability to navigate complex arrangements while delivering riveting solos.
Tabackin’s solo career has also been significant, with a discography that demonstrates both his musical range and his commitment to exploring his unique musical voice. Albums like “Dual Nature” and “Tenority” illustrate his command of melody and his innovative approach to harmony and rhythm.
Despite his accomplishments as a performer, Tabackin has always prioritized musical growth. He is noted for his commitment to practicing and studying, a testament to his lifelong dedication to his craft. This commitment to constant improvement has kept Tabackin at the forefront of the jazz scene for decades.
Lew Tabackin’s contributions to jazz have been recognized with several awards and critical acclaim. But perhaps more importantly, he has remained a leading voice in jazz, respected by his peers and adored by audiences worldwide. His music continues to inspire, and his approach to the saxophone and flute remains as distinctive as ever, solidifying his place as a true original in the world of jazz.
Page last updated 7/7/2023.