Akiyoshi-Tabackin, Frishberg-Dorough

Midway through Lew Tabackin’s tenor saxophone solo on “Long Yellow Road,” Toshiko Akiyoshi smiled at a particularly vigorous passage in his improvisation. The two have put a lot of miles on that Akiyoshi composition since it was the title tune of a classic 1975 album. It has worked for Akiyoshi imagesas a big band vehicle and as a solo piano piece, and at the Portland Jazz Festival it worked for their quartet. Bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Mark Taylor joined Akiyoshi and Tabackin in a 90-minute recital of Akiyoshi’s pieces and others by Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and her initial piano inspiration, Bud Powell. After talking about Powell’s “hard, sad life,” she tore into his “Tempus Fugit” in the kind of uncompromising bebop piano playing she learned by studying his recordings when she was a girl in Japan. She smiled again, this time at a felicitous phrase in her own solo. Tabackin sat listening intently to the trio number, which he must have heard her play hundreds of times. Kozlov and Taylor soloed to great effect on “Tempus Fugit” and other pieces. Throughout the set, they were strong in support.

Other Highlights:

Akiyoshi began “Sophisticated Lady” with a mesmerizing out-of-tempo introduction and garnished her solo with Thelonious Monk touches. In his “Studio F,” Tabackin played what he described as “free bop,” performed with only Taylor and Kozlov. Now it was Akiyoshi’s turn to sit listening on the side. Using a wireless microphone attached his horn’s bell, Tabackin was often in a half-crouch as he moved forward and back across the stage. The free bop in his solo developed along the lines of a tribute to one of his early models, Sonny Rollins. His flute playing in Ellington’s “Sunset and theTabakin flute Mocking Bird” from The Queen’s Suite bore traces of nothing but Tabackin’s individuality. There were overtones of anguish in his tenor in the introduction to “Farewell to Mingus,” followed by his duet with Kozlov’s bowed bass and heartfelt solos by Tabackin and Akiyoshi. Following a wildly expressive “Chasing After Love,” the quartet played “Hope,” a piece from Akiyoshi’s long work “Hiroshima.” Since the 9/11 attack, she and Tabackin have played the poignant ballad to close their performances.

Dave Frishberg And Bob Dorough

Seated facing each other at twin grand pianos, the celebrated writers set out to perform songs they created singly and together. They began with an instrumental, Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” and proceded to “Who’s on First?” the title tune of their 2000 Blue Note CD (“Which of us is the frim-fram sauce, and which is theFrishberg, Dorough shafaffa on the side?”). As they moved into Frishberg’s solo segment, he forgot the words of the first of his songs, then of several others. He apologized to the audience: “I’m drawing a blank on everything.” Dorough came gracefully to the rescue, singing and playing “Nothing Like You” and some of his other songs. They played another Ellington piano duet, “The Mooche.” Frishberg had no problem at the keyboard. He rallied to sing, with Dorough, “I’m Hip,” their best known joint effort. The audience gave them a standing ovation. Frishberg apologized again for his lapses. Several people in the crowd gave assurance to their fellow Portlander, shouting “We love you.”

The word the next day was that Frishberg had an anxiety attack, a phenomenon familiar to many performers. He was at home, doing fine.

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  1. Don Conner says

    Four marvelous performers. I have the Akiyoshi-Tabackin big-band version of “Long Yellow Road” that you alluded to, and it is great. I also have the 1960 version of the tune on the Candid label featuring Charlie Mariano’s impassioned alto solo, which is equaly great. Sorry to hear about Dave Frishbergs memory lapse. I’m sure it was just a bump in the road. I haven’t seen Dave since the sixties when he ably abetted the Al and Zoot quintet at the Half Note in the Apple. I didn’t realize all that latent talent was running around in his head!