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July/August 2003

Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin
Hiroshima: Rising from the Abyss
True Life

In the summer of 2001, composer and bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi presented a concert in Hiroshima commemorating the 56th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. This music, she says, "represents an anti-nuclear weapon, anti-atomic weapon and anti-war sentiment." The concert, performed by her Jazz Orchestra, featuring Lew Tabackin, has now been issued as Hiroshima: Rising From the Abyss (True Life). The evening starts with a short version of her fanfare "Long Yellow Road." followed by an extended suite in three movements. The first movement, "Futility-Tragedy," opens with ethereal swirling horns driven by drummer George Kawaguchi's backbeat and Tabackin's raspy, surging, big-toned tenor work. Tabackin and trumpeter Jim Rotondi generate much momentum and tension here, and the movement climaxes with a Kawaguchi solo and a group improvisation filled with beautiful chaos. The second movement, "Survivor Tales," includes quotations in Japanese from "Mother's Diaries," backed by eerie textures and traditional Korean flute played by Won Jang-Hyun. Toward the end of the movement, Tabackin's flute intertwines with Tom Christensen's tenor, John Eckert's trumpet and Scott Whitfield's trombone. The third movement, "Hope," is a lush ballad of inspiration featuring tolling bells, more narration and Tabackin's gorgeous tenor work. This suite is just the type of work that Akiyoshi excels at: big, ambitious, imaginative compositions based not just on blues or rhythm changes but on her own forms and inspirations as well. It helps that she's got such great players in her band, and it's our good fortune that she leaves plenty of room for blowing. The exceptional recording quality of this live disc is also a big plus.

Originally published in July/August 2003
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