The Troy Street Observer

Jun 17, 1983: The New Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra Debuts

Photo of Tabackin and Akiyoshi
Lew Tabackin and Toshiko Akiyoshi

The new Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin made its public debut at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in suburban Beverly.

Boston was, and probably still is, a special place for Toshiko Akiyoshi. She arrived here from her native Japan in January 1956 to study at the Berklee School, where she was the first international student enrolled. She was 26 years old and an accomplished musician back home, a good enough pianist to have played twice with the Tokyo Symphony. She graduated in 1959 with a long list of accomplishments to her name.

In 1972, Akiyoshi and her husband, saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin, moved to Los Angeles and formed the Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band. During the 1970s, it became one of the most prominent big bands on the scene, a poll winner and award nominee, with such heralded albums as Kogun, Long Yellow Road, and Insights to its credit. But their work wasn’t “commercial” enough, and prohibitive travel costs kept the band off the East Coast—it first played Boston in 1981, for example.

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