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Lew Tabackin headlines jazz festival at Renfrew

August 18, 2013|By COURTNEY BRADFORD | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Lew Tabackin, a New York-based jazz musician, plays flute and tenor saxophone.
Submitted photo

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Like many professional musicians, Lew Tabackin was introduced to music as a child.

But not many fledgling musicians become equally talented in two instruments. Today the 73-year-old is well-known for his flute- and tenor saxophone-playing abilities.

He’ll be sharing the music of both during Renfrew Institute’s Jazz Festival from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, at Renfrew Park in Waynesboro. Appearing with him will be guitarist Paul Bollenback, bassist Boris Koslov and Mark Taylor on drums.

Tabackin said his passion for music began as a child growing up in Philadelphia.

“The seed was planted when I was young. My mother used to take me to a theater and we would watch the bands that were playing,” he said during a phone interview.

Although he liked music, he didn’t do any actual playing until junior high.

“I chose the flute because no one else wanted to play it,” Tabackin said.

However, he felt he wasn’t receiving the right musical education.

“I had a terrible teacher,” he said. “I ended up teaching myself a lot.”

After playing flute for a few years, he received his first tenor sax when he was 16.

And it was the tenor sax that led Tabackin to jazz.

“In the 1950s, jazz was the hip music,” he said.

While he does play jazz on the saxophone, his style varies greatly when it comes to playing the flute.

Tabackin attended a conservatory for four years for the flute and focused on more classical music than jazz.

“I try to tell a story when I play the flute and improvise from the normal classical music,” he said.

In 1965, Tabackin decided to moved to New York City to start his music career. He was so green in fact, that he didn’t have any previous experience playing with bands, but that didn’t hold him down.

“It was great to play in New York in the early days because you never knew who would show up,” Tabackin said.

Although he started as an amateur, that quickly changed.

“There were times when I would be playing with five or six bands at the same time,” he said.

Tabackin was even able to play with Elvin Jones, a famous jazz drummer for the post-bop era, while in New York City.

Once he gained some experience with the bands in New York City, Tabackin moved out west to Los Angeles to show his stuff. It was there that he and his wife, Toshiko Akiyoshi, formed their own quartet, the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, and began touring in the U.S. and Japan.

While in Los Angeles, Tabackin also was able to perform with big names such as jazz drummer Shelley Manne.

While his career was going well in Los Angeles, Tabackin and his wife moved back to New York in 1982.

“I just felt like I didn’t quite fit in,” he said.

Tabackin still lives in New York City, frequently travels to jazz festivals and clubs, and is a featured soloist in the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra.

Tabackin said he’s looking forward to the Renfrew Jazz Festival.

“I’m excited that they invited me, and I hope to meet and make new friends while I’m there and make some music,” he said.

He also has good advice for the aspiring musician that dates back to when, as a teen, he was into Existentialism:

“When I was young, I realized that you have to become who and what you are, and the same thing goes for music,” he said.



If you go ...

WHAT: Renfrew Institute’s Jazz Festival

WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25

WHERE: Renfrew Park lawn, Waynesboro, Pa.

COST: Free

CONTACT: Call 717-762-0373 or go to www.renfrewinstitute.org

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