Although Lew Tabackin and Michael Moore have been performing together in a trio format (with drummer Joey Barron) for several years, they remain something of an underground group. A small audience of the cognoscenti enjoyed their two late sets at One Step Down Saturday night. It's time the larger jazz community recognized that they constitute one of the strongest combos around.

Tabackin's mammoth tenor saxophone sound comes out of the Coleman Hawkins school and is enhanced by a melodic imagination from which ideas tumble one after the other. In bassist Moore, Tabackin has a partner whose knowledgeable respect for the tradition equals his own. And if anyone thinks Moore "old-fashioned" by reason of his love affair with pretty melodies, let it be known that he can match, finger for finger, any bassist around today in ability to express on his instrument what he hears in his head.

Reedy vibrato, truck-size roars and double-clutched time changes characterized the saxophonist's a cappela "You'll Never Know How Much I Love You" and several other aggressively romantic selections including the Tommy Dorsey theme, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." Tabackin's technique-to-spare on flute as well was evident on a piece that contained an inventive extended solo (partly bare-handed) by Barron. Moore's solos were, quite simply, elegant melodic statements thoughtlessly executed.