Those who maintain that the elusive art of Jazz improvisation has fallen on hard times and point to Sonny Rollins as perhaps the last of the daring modern–day voices on saxophone may be overlooking someone. In other words, it could be rewarding to listen, for example, to Lew Tabackin who, like Rollins, has devised a singular Jazz vocabulary and loves to dance across the high–wire without a net. Tabackin’s mode of expression, although derived from and leaning heavily on Jazz tradition, is wholly modern in outlook and, like all memorable improvisation, is consistently creative and surprising. Such is certainly the case on L’Archiduc,
recorded live in 1994 at the Belgian nightspot which bears that name. Tabackin is simply marvelous throughout, whether on tenor or flute (“Wise One,” “Delilah”), and it is altogether appropriate that he should end the concert with an impassioned reading of Rollins’ blazer, “Oleo.” Tabackin is accompanied by a “local” rhythm section — Belgians Philippe Aerts on bass, Félix Simtaine on drums — and while they are splendid in support, I kept wishing that L’Archiduc was spacious enough to house a piano. As it is, Tabackin must shoulder most of the melodic load himself, with Aerts soloing occasionally and Simtaine only once. It’s a good thing Lew has plenty to say. The first 1:37 of Cole Porter’s “Night & Day” are his alone before Aerts and Simtaine enter the fray. Trane’s meditative “Wise One” is followed by the playful “I Don’t Want to Be Kissed (By Anyone But You),” Ellington’s luminous “Sentimental Mood” and a sunny work written especially for the occasion by Tabackin, “L’Archiduc—Round About Five.” Tabackin takes a well–earned breather of sorts, switching to flute on Victor Young’s soulful “Delilah,” before charging headlong into “Oleo.” This is crisp, persuasive saxophone work that would give even the indomitable Sonny a run for his money.
Track listing: Night & Day; Wise One; I Don’t Want to Be Kissed; In a Sentimental Mood; L’Archiduc – Round About Five; Delilah; Oleo (68:13).