Lew Tabackin Quartet

What a Little Moonlight Can Do

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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan

The deep, smooth tenor sax tones of Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins are clearly the models that Lew Tabackin patterns his playing after on this album featuring his quartet. The sax giants' influence can clearly be seen on "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," on which Tabackin plays above the melody, concluding with Webster's patented fluttering, whispering tone. Tabackin's playing throughout this session, irrespective of the tempo, is contemplative, exploring every nook and cranny, every nuance, every subtlety of the tune. He and his quartet travel winding roads of complex and interesting improvisations, always managing to return to the basic melody unscathed. He gives himself plenty of time for each journey, with most of the tunes running more than six minutes in length but never becoming boring or repetitive. Tabackin and his quartet caress "Easy Living," with Benny Green's piano getting significant exposure. "I Wished on the Moon," made famous by Billie Holiday, is done more like a tango than the swinging number it became in the hands of Lady Day. There are two non-standards on the album. Jimmy Knepper's "Leave of Absinthe," based on the chord changes to "Lullaby of the Leaves," is a vehicle for Tabackin's flute playing, while Tabackin's "Broken Dreams," commissioned by his wife, bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi, is a lovely ballad, again with Green's piano in the vanguard. The rhythm section backing Tabackin is world-class, with Green, Peter Washington on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. Playing professionally since the 1960s, Tabackin shows that almost 30 years later, he hasn't lost any of his passion for the music.

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