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With a list of jazz critics’ awards as long as his saxophone, Lew Tabackin is a jazzman’s jazzman. As a soloist, he redefined the big-band solo, playing both sax and flute with the best big bands in jazz before beginning a lifetime collaborating with pianist, bandleader and wife, Toshiko Akiyoshi. His ties to Japan mean that Tabackin plays here often, each time with fresh ideas and unlimited energy. Tonight, tomorrow and two nights this week, he joins two local big bands and two small groups at jazz club TUC in Tokyo.

Tabackin’s playing on both sax and flute has a fullness and maturity rooted in the jazz tradition, but not stuck there. He plays as far out as he wants, and likewise just as heartfelt — but always with authentic intensity. Switching easily between the two instruments, he carries on fascinating musical conversations with his intuitive sense of mixing into any kind of jazz group. With the two different 16-piece big bands on the 17th and 24th, he’ll be right in his element. The other musicians will be listening as intently as the crowd.

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