Lew Tabackin “Soundscapes” (Lew Tabackin 2015)
Lew Tabackin – tenor sax, flute
Boris Kozlov – bass
Mark Taylor — drums
This down-to-basics trio really digs in to the core of what jazz is about—melody, improvisation and rhythmic flow. The trio plays with an easy intensity, a conundrum that propels the music far and wide and deep. Tabackin plays as easily with a big band, having led one with Toshiko Akiyoshi for so long, but the trio format really lets his creative instincts fly. The melody layered on melody and more melody is a delight.
It also lets his virtuosic playing come out. The CD is recorded very direct and clear, so you can hear how his flute playing, on “Garden at Life Time,” for example, is so accomplished. The influence of Japanese flute flows in to blend with his own instincts for a very special sound, buoyed up by Kozlov’s rich, deep bass and Taylor’s nimble, tasteful drums.
That tune, along with “B♭, Where It’s At” and “Minoru,” form a trio of songs in the middle of the release dedicated to Japanese people, places and music. They make the five standards like “Afternoon in Paris” and “Sunset and the Mockingbird” stand out in contrast. The standards are well chosen and played with sense, fluidity and verve. Tabackin gets right into turning the tunes upside down and inside out.
The recording is an especially big pleasure because there is so much space just to follow the infinite loops of Tabackin’s improvised lines. You think you’re on one side of them, but then your ear ends up on the other side, like following the surfaces of an impossible object, where the melodies curve up and around and finally deliver you back to the right place.
Recorded in a drum shop in Manhattan, the quality is really intimate, close and clear. Kozlov and Taylor are, as always, in top form. The trio gives each other just the right amount of space, emphasizing how appropriate the CD’s title is. A few instruments and an endless supply of creative energy are what produce the best soundscapes.