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Music > Hot And Bothered

Miracle man


Published 1/9/2002

Hot And Bothered ARCHIVES
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A similar tale, but with a very different denouement, also unfolded recently. It involved avant-garde jazz drummer and former Detroiter Tani Tabbal, who suffered a massive seizure on Nov. 26 while accompanying a West African dance class in Kingston, not far from his home in Woodstock, N.Y. Upon admission to Westchester Medical Center, Tabbal was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but was fortunate to be put under the care of Dr. William Couldwell, one of the most highly respected neurosurgeons in the country, we’re told.

On Dec. 14, Tabbal underwent a 12-hour surgery — during which he was sedated but awake, so that his reactions could be monitored — which had doctors marveling at his resilience. According to Susanna Ronner, Tabbal’s life partner, “They were very aware of his brilliance as a musician, so everything was done slowly and meticulously so as to not create damage.”

The tumor, which was benign, was the size of a grapefruit. And though Tabbal’s doctors said it was the largest cranial tumor they had ever removed, post-operative tests showed that 100 percent of the renowned percussionist’s musical ability was intact. Says Ronner, “In the hospital, they call Tani the miracle man. Dr. Couldwell not only saved his life, he saved the quality of his life.”

When reached by telephone this past week, the rehabilitating drummer — whose career includes early work with Detroit’s Griot Galaxy and stints with James Carter, Geri Allen, Karl Berger, Roscoe Mitchell and Craig Taborn — was upbeat and grateful: “I’m learning to read again. I’m going slow, but it’s all coming back — and it hasn’t affected my playing or musical knowledge at all.”

Fans, friends and well-wishers can send contributions toward covering the cost of rehabilitation to Tani Tabbal, PO Box 1343, Woodstock, NY 12498. Look for a Detroit benefit in the future.

The Hot & the Bothered is edited by Metro Times arts editor George Tysh. E-mail him at

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