Williams Jazz Ensemble with Lew Tabackin
Directed by Erik Lawrence.
The Williams College Department of Music presents the Williams Jazz Ensemble with special guest artist Lew Tabackin on Friday, March 6, at 8 p.m. in Chapin Hall on the Williams College campus. This free event is open to the public.
The Williams Jazz Ensemble and Music Department are saddened by the death of David “Fathead” Newman. David was scheduled to perform as a guest with the ensemble. This is a great loss to the world of music and the world in general. The concert will be dedicated to the memory of him and his legacy.
Lew Tabackin will join the ensemble under the direction of Erik Lawrence. Tabackin, flutist and tenor saxophonist, is an artist of astonishing vision. His electrifying flute playing is at once virtuosic, primordial, cross-cultural, and passionate. His distinctive tenor sax style includes the use of wide intervals, abrupt changes of mood and tempo, and purposeful fervor, all in the service of showing the full range of possibilities of his instrument – melodically, rhythmically, and dynamically. Without copying or emulating jazz greats of the past, Mr. Tabackin has absorbed elements into his style, ultimately creating his own sound and aura.
The flagship Williams Jazz Ensemble (big band) plays formal concerts on campus, and also travels each year, with performances ranging from the Boston area to New York as well as throughout the Western Mass. region. In January of ’08 the Ensemble was in residence at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.
Lew Tabackin, flutist and tenor saxophonist, is an artist of astonishing vision. His electrifying flute playing is at once virtuosic, primordial, cross-cultural, and passionate. His distinctive tenor sax style includes the use of wide intervals, abrupt changes of mood and tempo, and purposeful fervor, all in the service of showing the full range of possibilities of his instrument – melodically, rhythmically, and dynamically. Without copying or emulating jazz greats of the past, Mr. Tabackin has absorbed elements into his style, ultimately creating his own sound and aura.
His interest in music began in his birthplace, Philadelphia, where he first studied flute and then tenor saxophone in high school. He majored in flute at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music (B.M. 1962) and studied privately with composer Vincent Persichetti. After his U.S. Army service (1962-65), Mr. Tabackin moved to New Jersey and then to New York, where he played first with Tal Farlow and Don Friedman and later in the big bands led by Cab Calloway, Les and Larry Elgart, Maynard Ferguson, Joe Henderson, Chuck Israels, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Clark Terry, and Duke Pearson. During the late 1960’s, Mr. Tabackin led a trio at a club called La Boheme in Philadelphia, in addition to playing in smaller groups with Donald Byrd, Roland Hanna, Elvin Jones, and Attila Zoller. In those early years he worked with Doc Severinsen and the studio band for Dick Cavett’s television show. He also spent some time in Europe, where he was a soloist with various orchestras, including the Danish Radio Orchestra and the Hamburg Jazz Workshop.
In 1968 he met Toshiko Akiyoshi when the two played together in a quartet. They eventually married and moved to Los Angeles, where they formed the award-winning big band known as the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra. While in Los Angeles, Mr. Tabackin also played with Shelley Manne and with various trios of his own with Billy Higgins, John Heard, and Charlie Haden. He also toured Japan frequently with Ms. Akiyoshi and her orchestra as well as with his own trio, which included drummer Joey Baron and bassist Michael Moore.
During the 1980’s he began to get some long overdue recognition as a flutist, winning many Down Beat critic’s and reader’s polls. In 1982 Mr. Tabackin and Ms. Akiyoshi moved to New York, which brought him back to the Manhattan jazz scene. Since then he has solidified his position as a major tenor saxophone and flute artist, both in live concerts and on recordings. In 1990 Mr. Tabackin released his first disc for Concord, Desert Lady, featuring Hank Jones, Dave Holland, and Victor Lewis, followed by the acclaimed I’ll Be Seeing You with Benny Green, Peter Washington, and Lewis Nash. In 1994 the same group recorded What a Little Moonlight Can Do. Mr. Tabackin has also been associated with several all-star bands, including George Wein’s Newport All-Star Band, the New York Jazz Giants, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band.
He continues to tour the world as a soloist, playing clubs and jazz festivals with his own groups and as featured soloist with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra. In 1996 Concord released Tenority, Mr. Tabackin’s latest album and the first recording on which he concentrates solely on tenor sax.
David ‘Fathead’ Newman was born in Corsicana, Texas on February 24, 1933. His family soon moved to Dallas, where they settled and David stayed through graduating Lincoln High School. After school, David found gigs in local bands. He received a scholarship to Jarvis Christian College where he studied theology and music.
After two years of college, David decided to go on the road full time with Buster Smith (Charlie Parker’s mentor). The band played lots of one-nighters and dance halls, touring Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and sometimes California. On one of those tours, David met Ray Charles.
Ray was working as a sideman with another group on the night’s roster. They immediately bonded, both musically and as friends. When Ray started his own band, he called on David to be part of his group. In 1954, David began a twelve year association with the Ray Charles Band. David began as the baritone player and soon became the star tenor soloist.
In 1959, David recorded his first album as a leader titled, “Fathead: Ray Charles Presents ‘Fathead'” on Atlantic records. It included Newman’s dramatic and now famous rendition of Hard Times.
He returned to Dallas for a short time and led his own bands. Then he moved to New York City where his career took off in many directions.
Newman recorded many albums for Atlantic records, as well as Warner Brothers and Prestige. During this time in NYC, David gigged with Lee Morgan, Kenny Drew Sr., Billy Higgins, Kenny Dorham and so many other of the great jazz musicians hanging out on the New York scene. He gigged around the East Coast with his own quartet and soon began touring Europe and Japan as a leader.
As a studio musician he was very busy working on lots of recording projects with the likes of Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin, Hank Crawford, Aaron Neville, to name a few. After meeting at a studio session, David joined forces with Herbie Mann during “The Family of Mann” era. Cal Tjader (later Roy Ayres) were part of this outstanding group.
It was now time for David Newman to focus on his personal choices and let the public know more about the music that he chose to play. In 1980, Newman, determined to pursue his own musical identity, recorded several mainstream jazz albums for the Muse label. Artists such as Cedar Walton, Jimmy Cobb, Buster Williams, Louis Hayes, and other fine NY musicians, helped round out the rhythm sections.
David returned to Atlantic Records in the late eighties to record several albums. One of he recordings was done live at the Village Vanguard in NYC, featuring Stanley Turrentine and Hank Crawford.
Newman’s next recordings were on the Kokopelli label. This was a new label owned by Herbie Mann. David recorded a beautiful CD in tribute to Duke Ellington, titled Mr. Gentle, Mr. Cool. David produced the next one on Kokopelli, titled Under A Woodstock Moon.
The late nineties brought David to the High Note label where he has recorded six successful CDs. The most recent, I Remember Brother Ray, was released in January 2005 and became the #1 Most Played Jazz Album nationwide.
David Newman has appeared on many television shows including Saturday Night Live, David Sanborn’s Night Music, David Letterman, and various featured news segments. David appeared in Robert Altman’s film Kansas City and did a national tour with the Kansas City Orchestra, for Verve Records.