The Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band was the premier recording and touring ensemble of its time in the mid- to late '70s, recording five albums for the RCA Victor label, and stunning audiences with sheer virtuosity and the charts of the Japanese born pianist. A symmetry between Asian culture and American bop made this orchestra most unique, exciting, and above all, highly original. This three-CD set contains the quintuple RCA studio recordings that set a high bar for all others to follow, and gave stiff competition to people like Gil Evans. Akiyoshi wrote music well suited to her rising stars and established veterans, while Tabackin was given more than ample opportunity to express himself on tenor sax, and especially his vibrant flute. This band also grew talent that would go on to become leaders, including Bobby Shew and Gary Foster, those who developed into section leaders like Phil Teele, Bill Reichenbach, and Dick Spencer, and trusted veterans Britt Woodman, Bill Perkins, Don Rader, and King Errison. "Kogun," with its stunning surf wave/saxophones/Hollywood mountain art work, kicks off the program, as "Elegy" comes out of the gate roaring in bop style via Akiyoshi's Bud Powell-influenced pianistics. Tabackin is a one-man army of atmospheric flute over tsuzumi drums and moaning sumo-type vocals as a strained, yearning sound identifies the title track in 5/4 time. "American Ballad" is very much in the Duke Ellington vein with Woodman featured, while the bop/blues "Henpecked Old Man" reiterates and expands on a theme Akiyoshi wrote in 1964, featuring Shew and Spencer. Where "Long Yellow Road" is perhaps the most popular of the original vinyl issues, the title track was available on Kogun, initially going back to the 1960 Akiyoshi-Mariano quartet with then husband, saxophonist Charlie Mariano. It's an incredible, dynamic, substantive jazz melody, orchestrated in regal, opulent tones by the big band, also soulful, grooving, and full of double stops. "Opus Number Zero" is a 4/4-to-waltz swiss cheese hard bop, "Quadrille, Anyone?" a gospel jazz waltz, and "Since Perry/Yet Another Tear" another Ellington-type epic as drummer Peter Donald and the saxes line up, then shout out. developing a bop-to-blues-to-ballad construct. Tales of a Courtesan is perhaps the least acclaimed of the five albums, though "Road Time Shuffle" is classic in the Count Basie tradition, "Strive for Jive" was a popular item featuring Tabackin's Eric Dolphy-esque scattered tenor, and "Village" perfectly evokes the balance between Eastern and Western cultures, with churning 5/4 Afro-Cuban rhythms surging between Akiyoshi's deft piano and three layered horns in counterpoint -- a simply brilliant piece of music. Where the recording Insights, from 1976, succeeded in emphasizing the Japanese koto aspect of Akiyoshi's heritage during the magnum opus suite "Minimata" with children's voices, floating horns, long-winded bop,and drama under the spare horns, it is not the definitive piece. That honor goes to "Sumie," a spiritual chart as Tabackin's piccolo is frighteningly haunting. "Studio J" is yet another memorable jazz chart more easily swung, and a staple in many other jazz big band's repertoires March of the Tadpoles from 1977 is the last of the five albums, but retains unusually disparate high points, with a feature for Tabackin's tenor on the ballad "Mobile," more bop mixed with Latin samba during "Deracinated Flower," the flute blues "Yellow Is Mellow," and the choppy "Notorious Tourist from the East" in a modal framework built for the players to work out and freely discourse. If you do not already own these recordings and are a progressive big-band fan, it is in your interest to search for this quintessential collection. Mosaic Select has hit a grand slam with this reissue, featuring a band in their early years that has hit on all cylinders since its inception, and never lets off the gas. It comes with an absolute highest recommendation.