Ken Peplowski – Quotes & Reviews

Bookmark and Share


In Search Of…

The splenetic and hard-nosed clarinetist/bandleader Benny Goodman admired tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski enough to hire the younger musician on for his last performing band, during the mid-1980s. But the Cleveland, Ohio-born and bred Peplowski’s main ax was, in fact, the clarinet. He spent a good part of his early career playing in Polish polka bands, and hiring on to play whatever other music jobs that were available. He eventually joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, under the baton of Buddy Morrow, and studied with saxophonist Sonny Stitt, before taking the Goodman job, going on to team with labels including Concord, Nagel-Heyer and Capri, putting out more than thirty albums as a leader, including the marvelous Noir Blue (Capri, 2010). In Search Of … finds Peplowski in a beautifully laidback, often swinging quartet setting with two first-rate groups, class acts both. The cool refinement and musicianship are of the highest order, with Peplowski as smooth and mellifluous as they come on clarinet, and possessing a very mellow, Ben Webster-ish tone on tenor. Shelly Berg, the pianist on the first nine numbers, displays a clean, restrained and tasty touch, similar to that of Hank Jones, and he also contributes a couple of strikingly lovely tunes: “In Flower,” an homage to Duke Ellington’s partner, Billy Strayhorn; and “Peps”—for Peplowski, of course. “A Ship Without a Sail,” an obscure Rodgers and Hart tune, floats along with subtle grace, while Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “This Nearly Was Mine” is pensive, suffused with a feeling of lonely regret. “No Regrets” introduces three numbers from the second recording session. A duet with bassist Greg Cohen is bouncy and upbeat, with Peplowski swinging with zest on tenor. “Within You Without You,” a George Harrison tune from The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967), lends a haunting, Eastern mood, while “Rum and Coca Cola,” referencing Professor Longhair’s version of the song, ends the set on a loose-limbed New Orleans note. Reviewed by, Dan McClenaghan, AllAboutJazz.com. (April 13, 2011)
********************************************************************************
Clarinetist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski has been a first-call sideman for decades, appearing on albums by the likes of Hank Jones, Leon Redbone, Charlie Byrd, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, and even Madonna. He has also recorded something like 30 albums as a leader, many of them brilliant. It will be hard for him to top this one, however. Supported by a trio consisting of pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy, and drummer Jeff Hamilton, Peplowski gently but firmly establishes his mastery of multiple modern jazz genres without coming across as a show-off or sacrificing taste and musicality. The album’s opening track, “The Thespian,” serves almost like an opera overture, summarizing the stylistic themes to come: opening in a soft ballad mode, it suddenly and seamlessly shifts into straight-ahead bebop, then veers off into modal, almost impressionistic territory before coming back to earth on the out chorus. When Peplowski begins trading fours with Berg, it sounds like a genial but spirited conversation between old friends, which, in fact, it is. That track alone is nearly worth the price of the CD, but others follow that are just as good: the quietly soaring “Love’s Disguise” (to which Peplowski’s clarinet provides a particularly lovely note of melancholy grace), a handful of utterly gorgeous ballads (including “When Joanna Loved Me” and “A Ship Without a Sail”), and the light and lively “Peps,” written by Berg for Peplowski. Oddly, the last three tracks on the program were pulled from a self-produced recording he made in 2007; one is a duo with bassist Greg Cohen, one a trio number with Cohen and vibraphonist Chuck Redd. But the final track is the funnest of them all: a duo version of “Rum and Coca Cola” played in homage to Professor Longhair at a benefit show shortly after Hurricane Katrina. It features Peplowski accompanied only by drummer Joe Ascione, and the variations he spins on this simple tune over the course of more than five uninterrupted minutes are a wonder to hear. It’s a sweet, charming, and jaw-droppingly virtuosic finale to a brilliant album. Reviewed by, Rick Anderson, AllMusicGuide.com.
********************************************************************************
Ken Peplowski has been a ubiquitous presence on the jazz scene for many years, both as a sideman and a leader of his own groups. He has always played with distinction and a firm sense of his own musical capabilities, no less so on this most recent release. Encouraged by a trio of fine musicians on tracks 1 to 9, Peplowski embarks on a musical exploration of styles and ideas, with a view to making them accessible and interesting. Leading off with the Freddie Redd composition, “The Thespian”, Peplowski gives the tune a sense of drama with the appropriate shift of structure and tone. While equally at home on clarinet or tenor sax, a preponderance of the tracks show off Ken’s clarinet virtuosity. This is evident on the melancholy “Love’s Disguise”. However not to be outdone as to his tenor sax prowess and versatility, listen to his wonderful reading of the ballad “When Joanna Loved Me” and then how easily he delves into the Latinesque “Falsa Baiana”with Jeff Hamilton providing the rhythmic channel. Peplowski’s clarinet playing can be compared to wrapping a gift with a silk ribbon; smooth texture yet firm. He demonstrates this to perfection on the Rogers/Hart tune “A Ship Without A Sail” and the Cy Coleman/David Zippel bit of music, “With Every Breath I Take”. Pianist Shelly Berg wrote the sprightly “Peps” for Peplowski, and thus gives him the freedom to display his energetic side. The final three cuts on the disc come from a self-produced session recorded in 2007 and are only now being released. While each one is interesting, two deserve particular mention: Firstly “No Regrets” a duo track with bassist Greg Cohen and Peplowski on tenor, where he plays with enthusiasm and jump. ”Rum And Coca Cola” is another duo cut, but with drummer Joe Ascione.  Both players show their talent and skill in this light-hearted take. This is a first class get-together done with elegance and style. Reviewed by, Pierre Giroux, Audiophile Audition. (May 2, 2011)
********************************************************************************
I think this is the second album I have received of jazz clarinetist, saxophonist and bandleader Ken Peplowski. In Search Of… is an album of two ‘mismatched’ halves, containing music from two separate sessions dating between 2007 and 2010. The main body of the album is the 2010 session and features Shelly Berg on piano, Tom Kennedy on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums, while the ’07 sessions features Greg Cohen on bass, Joe Ascione on percussion and drums, and Chuck Redd on vibraphone. As for the music, well it seems to follow a rather swinging mix of post bop and blues. It actually makes for appealing listening and seems to be run through with good humour. The album consists of a mix of original tunes by the band members and a selection of material from the classic jazz and pop songbooks – they are: “The Thespian, Love’s Disguise,” “When Joanna Loved Me,” “Falsa Baiana,” “A Ship Without A Sail,” “With Every Breath I Take” “In Flower,” “Peps,” “This Nearly Was Mine,” “No Regrets,” “Within You And Without You,” and “Rum and Cola.” There is some wonderful playing by all the musicians involved here, and Mr. Peplowski’s clarinet and sax ride smoothly over every track in a magisterial fashion. The mix of slow and romantic tracks with the faster bop material makes for a varied and exciting album, and one that many non-jazz fans would probably enjoy as well. Finally, a mention of the great cover artwork and illustrations throughout the inlay booklet – it was created by the underground comix artist Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy The Pinhead [no, I don’t think he made it to the UK]. So I recommend In Search Of… To anyone who enjoys classic jazz trio and quartet music. Reviewed by, John M. Peters, MusicWatch #17, the-boderland.co.uk
********************************************************************************
I’ve always been enamoured to Ken Peplowski’s prodigous talents in the ‘reed’ area, and his choice of songs is second to none. His love for the American Songbook is again manifest in this his new CD project. I’m a sucker, (as a saloon singer myself) for ballads, and may I pay special kudos to Ken for his take of the lovely jazz ballad, ”When Joanna Loved Me.” His delivery was a true exercise in Appassionata with his beautiful textures as well as his imaginative vitality which he gave to the song. He is truly ‘individual.’ No one plays his horn with more rhythmic variety and flexibility. His jazz ballads naturally emote a certain gentle elegiac mood that can take you to that ”special place” as it were. It would be hard to find another artist of Ken’s ilk that delivers his music with such a predominant emphasis on musical color.  He’s one of a kind. A powerfully dramatic artist with a bent for both the profoundly serene and the tranquil, as well as the stormy and strong. Reviewed by, George W. Carroll, CabaretExchange.com.
********************************************************************************
It’s occurred to me that I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz with a hopeful heart. I’m hopeful that this will move me, maybe unlock some deep passage in my soul that will help me understand life on a fuller level. That’s nearly happened a pile of times, as though some great vortex in the centre of the universe has decided to let me in on some secret. A little too trippy? Maybe. Or maybe my hopeful heart is common. We’re all striving for connections, after all, and we’re all in search of that moving moment when we finally get it. All the smoke and mirrors vanish. We’ve got it all figured out, clarity is our friend and whatever happens next is okay. Those moments are fleeting. Shit, if they were constant we’d all probably enjoy life. Can’t have that. So what is reedman Ken Peplowski in search of on his new record. In Search Of… finds him playing with pianist Shelly Berg, drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist Tom Kennedy with the sort of force and heart that reveals a bigger purpose. Truth be told, dude’s a monster on this disc. I don’t mean that in the sense that he blasts through walls or wields a cannon like Adam Schroeder. Peplowski is more surgical, less blunt. Nah, what I mean is that this cat is following up 2010′s Noir Blue with something that has teeth. The first session on the album was recorded in three and a half hours, after all. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do very much in that amount of time. I sure as hell can’t unlock that deep passage in my soul that will help me understand life on a, say, fuller level. In Search Of… kicks off with the blistering session and tacks on a trio of tunes taken from a self-produced recording Peplowski put out in 2007. Call it the second session of the record. Right out of the box, Ken walks the line. “The Thespian” is suitably dramatic. Flourishes of ivory flick through, while the reedman digs in on clarinet with a sort of smoothness rarely heard. Those passages are opening and the players know just the right second to kick it up and go for a trot. My favorite is the groovy “Falsa Baiana,” a downright smoking cut that stretches out Peplowski’s tenor sax beyond its logical limits. There’s a slammin’ piano solo to contend with and Hamilton’s fills are something to sit back and take in. Peplowski, born in Cleveland, performed every weekend when he was a kid. The levels may have improved over the years, but the exuberance and excitement has remained. In Search Of… did more than satisfy this listener; it cranked open the doors, lit a fire under my hopeful heart and sent me home dancing. Reviewed by, Jordan Richardson, Canadianaudiophile.com. (June 1, 2011)
********************************************************************************
As one of jazz’s front-line instruments, the clarinet—along with the cornet and trombone—came to prominence about 100 years ago most famously in New Orleans’ marching bands. The instrument reached its apogee of fame in the ’30s in the swing-era bands of Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Artie Shaw. In the ’50s, bebopper Buddy DeFranco revived it while Pete Fountain, operating on a much different wavelength with Lawrence Welk, became a household name. Although the clarinet is still a staple in a plethora of traditional jazz bands, it seldom gets much mainstream attention. One of its current players, however, the 52-year-old Ken Peplowski—who’s recorded more than 30 CDs as a leader during the past 30 years—is doing his best to keep the flame alive. Joined by pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Jeff Hamilton on nine of the disc’s 12 tunes, Peplowski—on clarinet—treats us to such hauntingly lovely tunes as “A Ship Without a Sail” and “With Every Breath I Take.” He plays tenor sax on “When Joanna Loved Me,” a wistful ballad he’d heard sung by Frank Sinatra, and “No Regrets,” a bouncy duet with Greg Cohen from the second three-tune session. This charming CD definitely refutes the classic gripe of “they don’t make music like that anymore.” Reviewed by, Miles Jordan, NewsReview.com. (June 16, 2011)
********************************************************************************
Ken Peplowski has a beautiful command of tone—be it on the clarinet, his signature instrument, or the tenor saxophone, which he plays equally well. On In Search Of…, Peplowski’s latest recording, we find the masterful reed man applying that tone to a terrific set of standards and new music. The first nine songs on the album were recorded in one take each during a 3 1/2-hour session that took place in February 2010 at Bennett Studios in New Jersey. But there is no sense of rush in the finished product. With pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Jeff Hamilton, Peplowski and company amaze with what great musicians can do on the spot. “The Thespian,” “When Joanna Loved Me,” “A Ship Without A Sail” and a crushing “This Nearly Was Mine” deliver beautiful interplay and interpretations of gems from the Great American Songbook. Originals “Love’s Disguise” by Kennedy and “Peps,” written for Peplowski by Berg, also fit neatly into the set. So do three other tunes recorded for a self-produced record of Peplowski’s that never saw release. These additions feature bassist Greg Cohen, percussionist Joe Ascione and vibraphonist Chuck Redd. Even though, in concept, the record might seem spliced, the listener wouldn’t notice without reading the liner notes, which are worth a look. The art for In Search of… was created by underground comic genius Bill Griffith (Zippy) and the notes were written with grace and humor by Peplowski himself. The entire package for In Search Of… has a laid-back joy, which fits perfectly with Peplowski’s artistry. By Frank Alkyer, DownBeat.com. (April 2011)
********************************************************************************
Reedman Ken Peplowski loves the clarinet as much as he does the tenor saxophone and on his new CD, In Search of…, he plays them both with superb results. The new disc is actually a combination of two different sessions recorded three years apart (April, 2007 and February, 2010) with different personnel—all first rate. The last three pieces on the album were recorded in 2007 and are not your normal straight jazz tunes with each possessing a unique airy nature especially the number “Within You and Without You.” Two of the last tracks are duos, one features Peplowski on tenor with bassist Greg Cohen and the other has the reedman on the clarinet with drummer/percussionist Joe Ascione. The finale piece is a quartet setting including vibraphonist Chuck Redd. For the majority of the album, Peplowski is joined by jazz luminaries Jeff Hamilton on drums, Shelly Berg on piano and bassist Tom Kennedy rounding out the world-class rhythm section. “The Thespian” opens the album with a nice boppish flair highlighting both the saxophonist and Berg on delicious solos against Hamilton’s crisp drumming and crashing cymbal accents. Performing on the clarinet for the first time, Peplowski hums out one beautiful melody on “Love’s Disguise.” “When Joanna Loved Me” presents one of the defining moments of the album, a slow ballad with the soft saxophone leading the tune turns out to be an outstanding feature. The Brazilian flavor kicks in on the seven-minute “Falsa Baiana” providing Peplowski with some of the best tenor solos of the session. The group swings a bit on the upbeat and perky “Peps” providing bassist Kennedy a brief but tasteful solo as the reedman takes to the clarinet with a swinging performance. Other clarinet-led numbers include “In Flower,” the humbling “With Every Breath I Take,” and “A Ship Without A Sail.” Whether on the clarinet or blowing smoke on the tenor, Ken Peplowski turns in another amazing performance on In Search of… surely finding one heck of a musical statement to be proud about. Berg, Hamilton and the rest of the crews were the cream, the topping that made this search so easy to find and enjoy. Reviewed by, Ed Blanco, ejazznews.com. (June 10, 2011)
********************************************************************************
For someone who is playing within a tradition, it is important to keep inspiration high, to keep yourself challenged and contributing on a high level. Where perhaps some have fallen victim over time to a kind of creeping fungus of the repertoire, the same tunes played in the same ways time and again, Ken Peplowski has found ways to keep his music very much a thing of today. His newest, In Search of. . . (Capri 74108-2), is a particularly good example. It doesn’t hurt that Bill Griffith’s cartoon illustrations bring a kind of timeless present-in-retro-past feel to the packaging. But of course that is the surface of what the album is about. The first ten tracks find Ken in the company of a nicely wrought quartet that includes the brightly bouyant piano of Shelly Berg, Jeff Hamilton’s swingful drumming and the solid bass of Tom Kennedy. Most importantly the material played is well-balanced and well-chosen. Freddie Redd’s “The Thespian,” Rogers and Hart’s “A Ship Without A Sail,” a couple of nice Berg originals, and on from there. They form excellent springboards for Ken’s sometimes gritty post-Webster, sometimes breathy post-Getzian tenor and his alternately limpid or bell-clear clarinet work. The final three tracks show Maestro Peplowski in a duo or trio setting, with some fine versions of Harrison’s “Within Without You” and the calypso standard “Rum and Coca Cola.” It is captivating fare and Ken sounds fabulous throughout. It’s an album that should find adherents across the spectrum of appreciators of the improvisational arts. It certainly is giving me a good deal of pleasure. Reviewed by, Grego Applegate Edwards, gapplegatemusicreview.blogspot.com. (June 24, 2011)
********************************************************************************
Man, if there were still diners like the one pictured on the CD cover, I’d be there every night for my taste of jazz… the totally upbeat “Peps” is just the kind of music I could listen to all night as we danced the evening away – delectable, to be sure!  For something with a little more laid-back feel to it, I’d want to hear “False Baiana” – some mighty mellow sax work from Ken on this one, & his partners Shelly Berg (piano), Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tom Kennedy (bass), as well as visiting artist Greg Cohen (bass), Joe Ascione (drums/percussion) and Chuck Redd (vibes) show your ears what jazz is really all about on the dozen tracks assembled here.  My favorite was the opener, “The Thespian“, which grabbed my ears & wouldn’t let go!  I give these high energy players my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Reviewed by, Dick Metcalf, rotcoddzzaj.com, Issue #115.
********************************************************************************
Ken Peplowski is a master of all genres. Born near the end of the swing era, his first musical inspiration was Benny Goodman; as a result, the clarinet was Peplowski’s initial instrument of choice. His career began in a Polish polka band — which he credits with his ability to “play anything at any tempo” — and then transitioned through Dixieland to swing and traditional jazz. Along the way, he also became fluent on the tenor sax.  Peplowski is a musician’s musician: His discography is extensive, both as sideman and leader. By the time he had become a first-call artist, most of the famous swing era band-leaders had retired or died, although some of the orchestras had been reincarnated. One of these was the Tommy Dorsey Band, under the direction of Buddy Morrow; Peplowski toured extensively with that group. Goodman came out of retirement for a limited time in 1984, and hired Peplowski on tenor sax; so, finally, master and student were able to play together for a short time. As the years passed, and styles changed, Peplowski adapted. It’s therefore difficult to find artists or groups with whom he hasn’t played and recorded. He concentrated on the standards during his early years, but — as this album illustrates — he has moved with the times. Two sessions were involved. The first involved Peplowski on clarinet and tenor sax, with the backing of pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Jeff Hamilton; the second utilized Greg Cohen on bass, Chuck Redd on vibes and Joe Ascione on percussion. The tunes are a mix of lesser-known charts by other musicians (Freddie Redd’s “The Thespian”), shows (“This Nearly Was Mine,” from South Pacific; “With Every Breath I Take,” from City of Angels) and originals by Berg, Hamilton and Kennedy.  It’s a marvelous selection of songs, done beautifully by consummate artists. Reviewed by, Rick Bang, JazzScan.com. (June 23, 2011)
********************************************************************************
Reed instrumentalists Ken Peplowski creates an eclectic world of swing-inspired motifs, entrancing soundscapes, soft roasted blues, and balladry sweeps on his new CD, In Search of… from Capri Records. This is his second effort as a bandleader following his previous Capri Records release Noir Blue. The album features compositions recorded from two different sessions and with two different sets of musicians. The first nine tracks were recorded on February 21, 2010 with Peplowski at the helm and accompanied by pianist Shelley Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy, and drummer Jeff Hamilton. These tracks flow naturally and show signs of Peplowski’s predecessors some of whom he has been fortunate enough to play with including Mel Torme, Benny Goodman, and Rosemary Clooney. The brisk twirls of Peplowski’s clarinet are garnished in sprinting drum rolls along “Falsa Baiana”, while the clarinet’s sleek strolls across “When Joanna Loved Me” are nestled in Berg’s tranquilizing piano melody. The rhythmic interpoles made along “The Thespian” generate stimulating moments between the piano, bass, and drums, and morph into a soft bluesy swing pulse through “Love’s Disguise”. The latter half of the album, tracks 10-12, was recorded on April 2, 2017 and stylized with Greg Cohen on bass, Joe Ascione on percussion and drums, and Chuck Redd on vibraphones. The cabaret-toned ambience of “No Regrets” is wreathe in a ring of puffing twitters from the clarinet, which slide into ascending phrases along “Within You and Without You” as the jiggling notes of the vibes produce an ethereal sheath. The upbeat stride of “Rum and Coco Cola” is strapped to buoyant percussions and a springy delivery from Peplowski’s clarinet which is partial to embracing a polka libretto. Though Peplowski plays with two entirely different sets of musicians, the album has a cohesive seal that allows the tracks to move seamlessly. It’s a testament to Peplowski’s ability to be flexible and effective in any environment that he is thrown into, and proudly, his clarinet shines while encouraging his band to join him in the spotlight. Reviewed by, Susan Francis, Jazztimes.com. (April 28th, 2011)
********************************************************************************
Like Scott Hamilton, Ken Peplowski has proven the best revenge for being stereotyped as a neo-swing player is to develop a personal style and sound that skirts tradition as rewardingly as it basks in it. Though the clarinetist weds jazz to raga here on a quirky, vibraphone-dappled cover of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You,” he doesn’t need to go outside the jazz genre to impart his individualism. Peplowski’s special drive and melodic invention, on tenor saxophone as well as clarinet, lift everything he touches. To wit: the masterfully constructed tenor reading of Freddie Redd’s “The Thespian” on In Search of… Reteamed in a terrific quartet with pianist Shelley Berg, Peplowski begins pensively and a bit mysteriously, shifts to edgy double-timed swing at the two-minute mark and progressively becomes tougher and more grounded right up to an abrupt, declamatory ending. Pushing and polishing the infectious melody of bassist Tom Kennedy’s optimistic ballad “Love’s Disguise,” he is no less urgent. The quartet also tackles Rodgers and Hart’s rarely heard “A Ship Without a Sail,” featuring the leader at his most affecting, and “Falsa Baiana,” a samba showcasing drummer Jeff Hamilton, on which Peplowski handily avoids Getz-ian comparisons with his heartier sound and razor-curled notes. The final three tracks, rescued from an abandoned recording, include the Harrison tune (featuring bassist Greg Cohen, vibraphonist Chuck Redd and percussionist Joe Ascione) and a spirited clarinet-drum duet on Professor Longhair’s version of “Rum and Coca Cola.” It doesn’t reflect the New Orleans Benny Goodman had in mind, but there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Reviewed by, Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes.com. (July 28th, 2011)
********************************************************************************
Ken Peplowski’s In Search of…Finds a Groove
The CD cover of veteran big-band reedman Ken Peplowski’s new album In Search of… pretty much tells the story. Pictured at the edge of the sidewalk, playing his clarinet in the yellow neon light of a sepia-toned, twilit Downtown Diner in the shadow of downtown Manhattan skyscapers, this is oldschool after-hours music. With all but the final three tracks recorded live in the studio in a single take, there’s a comfortable familiarity here – you can hear the voices of the players as they respond to cues and solos – but also plenty of surprises. For the casual fan, it’s an album of spirited nocturnes; hardcore jazz types will be amazed by the liquid crystal clarity of Peplowski’s legato – what flows from his horn is rivers rather than single notes – and some unexpected tunes. Here he plays clarinet and soprano saxophone, backed by Shelly Berg on piano, Tom Kennedy on bass and John Hamilton (leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and his own trio, whose excellent 2009 album we didn’t exactly do justice to here) on drums. There are also three additional tracks with Greg Cohen on bass, Joe Ascione on drums and percussion and Chuck Redd on vibraphone. They open it with “The Thespian,” by Freddie Redd, a lyrical ballad that jumps into doublespeed, piano and sax playing a double line before Peplowski’s soprano sax goes out exploring. The strongest tune here is Kennedy’s,” Love’s Disguise,” Hamilton’s hushed brushwork a clinic in good taste pushing the syncopated Cuban beat – as is Kennedy’s genial, melodic bass solo. More of those suspenseful brushes color an expansive, Romantically tinged version of “When Joanna Loved Me;” Hamilton’s warm samba groove, “Falsa Baiana,” gives Peplowski a long launching pad for some boisterously tropical excursions. The relatively obscure Rodgers/Hart tune,” A Ship without a Sail” shifts rhythms back and forth to drive up the emotional impact;  the brooding quality of Peplowski’s clarinet elevates another showtune, “With Every Breath I Take,” far above its origins. Berg has a couple of tunes here, a warmly summer 6/8 ballad that contrasts vividly with pensive clarinet, and a briskly comedic, almost dixieland dedication to Peplowski, who gamely plays along with the portrait of an irrepressibly good-natured guy who can’t sit still. And then Berg more than matches him for boisterous antics. The album winds up with an unexpectedly poignant take of “This Nearly Was Mine,” Berg adding suspense with some rubato solo piano as a bridge, and a tight bass/sax duo of  “No Regrets.” The only misses are the Beatles and Professor Longhair cuts that end it; if you’re planning on using this as 4 AM wind-down music (it’s perfect for that time of night/day), either put those tracks somewhere else on your ipod or program the CD differently. Is this album a throwback to a better time and place? From a look at the CD cover, it’s hard to think otherwise. It’s out now on Capri Records. Reviewed by, Alan Young, LucidCulture.com. (March 25, 2011)
********************************************************************************
The coldest night in January, 1997, just to get out of the cold, I wandering into a little restaurant in New York and there was a happening trio holding forth. Twas there I first heard Peplowski live and wondered why no one had snatched him off Concord. 30 years into a career that still finds him holding forth in the front row, Peplowski and his pals serve up a smoking set that keeps his creative and unique style front and center. A tasty mainstreamer throughout, this is solid sitting down jazz that gives you our daily minimum requirement of bounce to the ounce. Solid. Reviewed by Chris Spector, MidwestRecord.com. (March 11, 2011)
********************************************************************************

Ken Peplowski – In Search Of…: When trad and swing jazz tenor or clarinet is called for, Ken Peplowksi is the man. Having played in Glenn Miller’s ghost orchestra as well as Benny Goodman’s comeback big band of the 1980′s, Peplowski has made some thirty records of his own, mostly for the Concord label. He has continued to work lots of dates, including for Mel Tormé, Charlie Byrd and this recent one by Bill Cunliffe and Holly Hoffman. Now comes another one by Peplowski called In Search Of…. This is a enjoyable, no-frills collection mostly performed by Peplowski’s quarter of himself, Shelly Berg (piano), Tom Kennedy (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums). For the first nine tracks, this crew runs through a set of originals and covers that swing lightly, sometimes recalling small group jazz of the 40s and 50s that was largely unaffected by the bop movement. It’s also more whimsically inclined: “When Joanna Loved Me” and “A Ship Without A Sail” are perfect companions to a romantic dinner. The last three tracks come from an earlier session with different sidemen; George Harrison’s “Within You And Without You” with Chuck Redd’s vibes and Greg Cohen’s bass is a surprise selection, but Pepolowski demonstrates how adaptive the clarinet is to more exotic sounding melodies. Out since March 15, In Search Of… is Peplowski’s second for Capri Records. Reviewed by S. Victor Aaron, SomethingElse.com. (April 6, 2011)
********************************************************************************
For me, any recording with a cover drawn by Bill Griffith (“Zippy The Pinhead”) has started off on the right foot.  It’s also new music from the fine clarinetist and occasional tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski and “In Search Of…” (Capri Records) – what’s not to like.  9 of the 12 tracks feature the wonderful accompaniment of pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Jeff Hamilton – recorded in February 2010, the program is a blend of originals and fascinating covers.  For instance, the CD opens with  “The Thespian”, a piece by pianist Freddie Redd (best known for “The Connection.”). The tune starts slowly, Peplowski on tenor lovingly caressing the melody. About 2 minutes in, the quartet doubles the tempo and the piece sets off on a lively romp (the arrangement is quite similar to Redd’s original. “A Ship Without  A Sail” is a Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart work from the 1929 musical “Heads Up!” – it’s a lovely ballad with a sweet clarinet solo over the terrific brush work of Hamilton as well as a lovely piano solo.  Another fine ballad is “When Joanna Loved Me.”  Composed by the team of Jack Segal and lyricist Robert Wells, Peplowski based his version on a live rendition by Frank Sinatra.  Here, the leader plays tenor saxophone in a breathy but clear tone, never rushing through the melody, using longer tones, and one hears hints of Lester Young in the solo. Pianist Berg contributes 2 pieces, the lovely “In Flower” (an homage to Billy Strayhorn) and the lively “Peps”, the latter a romp for the entire band. The final 3 cuts come from an April 2007 session, the results of which have never been released. “No Regrets” is a lively tenor/bass duo featuring Greg Cohen. There is a surprising and respectful reading of George Harrison’s “Within You and Without You”, with Peplowski’s clarinet subbing for the sitar plus fine percussion from Joe Ascione, atmospheric vibraphone from Chuck Redd and strong bass support and response from Cohen.  The CD closes with a lively New Orleans-influenced reading of “Rum and Coca Cola” performed by Ascione (drums) and the leader on the spicy clarinet. If you are “In Search Of..” a fine musical experience, Ken Peplowski’s latest CD is a treat.  Even without the Griffin artwork, this CD is worth finding. Reviewed by, Richard Kamins, steptempest.blogspot.com.(Thursday, March 31, 2011)
********************************************************************************

Ken Peplowski – Noir Blue

Along with pianist Shelly Berg, double bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Joe LaBarbera, Ken Peplowski brings his clarinet and tenor saxophone up front for this latest session of great mainstream jazz. He can slip in and out of several styles, but with this outing he drives straight-ahead with references to Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, and Ornette Coleman. Peplowski likes to cover it all, and he’s on top of his game playing clarinet for half the session and tenor for the other half. Berg’s “Home With You” LaBarbera’s “If Not for You” and Peplowski’s “Little Dogs” give the session its far-reaching stretch. Cascading piano wizardry on the first, the drummer’s sterling extended solo on the second, and the free jazz tenor spirit of the third allow these original songs to carry the listener afar while holding to jazz’s true meaning. I like the quartet’s eight minutes of improvisational sauce on “Little Dogs” more than the rest. Billy Strayhorn’s “Noir Blue” and “Multi-Colored Blue” give the session its title characterization: slow, blue, passionate, broadly melodic with a lackadaisical pulse, and ever so gentle all the way. Berg, Leonhart, LaBarbera and Peplowski meld their spirits together on this session to create an enjoyable fusion of jazz from its mainstream. Reviewed by, Jim Santella, L.A. Jazz Scene. (December 2008)
The album avoids any hint of starchy obligations or misty nostalgia. Mr. Peplowski attacks these songs eagerly, as if tearing them out of their shrink wrap. His clarinet playing is, as always, sprightly and controlled, expressive but never shrill…The band, with Mr. Berg, Mr. La Barbera and the bassist Jay Leonhart, matches his high degree of enthusiasm and meets his high level of expertise. Nate Chinen, New York Times.
************************************************************
In Search Of…

QUOTES:
“Ken Peplowski’s recordings are always a pleasure to hear and this is up with the very best. His warm tenor is featured on “The Thespian, “Peps” and “No Regrets,” among others, and his peerless clarinet is beautifully displayed in sublime performances of “This Nearly Was Mine” and “With Every Breath I Take.” Peter Bevans, The Northern Echo, UK.

********************************************************************************



 

 


 




 

 



 


 

 

Comments are closed.