Rites of Pan

Lew Tabackin

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Rites of Pan Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Lew Tabackin's first offering strictly on the flute is a perfect showcase for his incredible virtuosity on the metal woodwind. As impressive as any performer on the instrument, Tabackin's startling technique and pronounced vibrato tone do not supersede his wealth of ideas and how he approaches music with a worldview that is similar to no other peer. Joined by wife/pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi in this small group setting with help from drummer Shelly Manne and bassists John Heard or Bob Daugherty, Tabackin explores the entire sonic palate available in a series of compositions that span bop, Asian music, hushed tones, and sky high soaring sounds. There's a bit of myth/science going on here, using ancient dialects with modern and even futuristic modes that advance the flute beyond jazz and what most people are used to hearing. The prime example of this is the opening track, "Autumn Sea," an 11-minute, evocative magnum opus that moves through many mood changes, starting in easy swing to bop, some clarion calls at the gates of heaven from Tabackin's vibrato-laden flute, later filling in the cracks with the other instruments, and featuring a terrific solo by Akiyoshi. Where the title track is a freely improvised, demonstrative jam merging into 6/8 with only an animated Tabackin and Manne, "Night Nymph" is a similarly spontaneous vision, a brief piece where Tabackin hits all of his breath marks in a vocal capacity. There's a version of "Jitterbug Waltz" is pleasant but supernatural via Tabackin's vibrato tones, while Akiyoshi makes her first-ever recording on the Fender Rhodes electric piano for the serene, calmed, romantic waltz "Elusive Dream" minus Manne and featuring a healthy dose of Heard. Not all ethereal and introspective, the band rips through a short, super fast, and precise version of Dizzy Gillespie's "Be-Bop," and do an upbeat version of the usually midtempo "Speak Low" with marginal piano complement. Rites of Pan is exceptional in every way, brilliantly conceived and executed, and is now very thankfully available as a CD reissue from Inner City Records.