Monday, September 29, 2003

Lew Tabackin - Brussels, 28/09/2003

Lew Tabackin - tenor sax, flute
Bart De Nolf - double bass
Martin Taylor - drums

This trio played in the Archiduc, which is something of a Brussels landmark. It has an Art Déco interior design with a beige and green-blue colour-scheme, the balcony gives the room a U shape, there are two pillars about 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) apart in the middle and one of the barmaids looks frightfully like a member of the French resistance, 'Allo 'Allo style.

Before this concert, I'd only heard of Lew Tabackin. Throughout, I was struck by the happiness radiating from his horn. This happiness was also expressed in his idiosyncratic body movements: shuffling dance steps which at times approached tap dancing and lunging foot stomps to accompany percussive growls. Tabackin's flowing, melodious improvisations and open, generally vibrato-less tone on tenor recalled late 50s Sonny Rollins. However, he turned to Ben Webster on Duke Ellington's "Self-Portrait of Bean," capturing the former's gruff tenderness. Most notable, in terms of sheer power and energy, were the three tenor-drum duets. The first of these came during the concert-opening "How High the Moon," during which Tabackin erupted into 30 seconds of free wailing. One audience member quipped "The duets are so fantastic, why bother with the rest?"

Bart De Nolf, a last-minute replacement for Philippe Aerts, remained fairly discreet throughout the set, despite numerous, competent solos. Martin Taylor exhibited a light touch and good communication with the leader. During the duets, the extent of their rapport was fully revealed: the saxophone turned percussive and the drums turned melodic.

Tabackin used flute on two more exotic numbers, a middle-Eastern flavoured Duke Ellington number and what I suppose was an original called "Dancing Maja," which was inspired by Spanish music and featured Taylor tapping out the rhythm on castagnettes. "Dancing Maja" abandoned 4/4 time in favour of a whirling, dance-based 6 beat. The concert closed on a very fast bebop number, with the best of the tenor-drums duets thrown in for good measure.