Those who know what a big fan I am of traditional jazz will not be surprised by how much I enjoyed Ken Peplowski’s
latest effort, ".... and Heaven Too!"
which is volume two of a series of recordings done live in the UK during 1999. As usual, Peplowski’s playing is outstanding, and he is accompanied by an equally capable group of British sidemen including John Pearce on piano, bassist Dave Green, and Martin Drew on drums. Though this group is not a regular working band, they gel nicely under Peplowski’s leadership.
For those who are not familiar with this versatile musician, he was a member of the staple of relatively young swing-influenced musicians that came to prominence during the 1970’s and 1980’s through the Concord record label. He still continues to perform as a sideman with Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, and Howard Alden. His style is deeply rooted in the traditional tenor school of Young, Ammons, and Webster. But he also handles more modern playing with aplomb, due to a stint as a student and sparring partner with Sonny Stitt.
Peplowski divides this set equally between his tenor sax and clarinet. The first four tunes feature his tenor, and the final four are performed on the clarinet. Both instruments are featured on a mix of uptempo and ballad numbers. As can be expected, all of the selections are standards, ranging from Walter Donaldson’s 1920’s hits "You" and "Changes", two bossa novas, and a wonderful obscure Duke Ellington composition, "Don’t You Know I Care."
The highlights of this CD are two of its more relaxed performances. Peplowski’s tenor is featured on a lovely version of the Edu Lobo bossa nova "Pra Dizer Adeus", revealing a smooth, wispy sound reminiscent of the best qualities of Ben Webster and Stan Getz. And his clarinet glides almost effortlessly through the beautiful and under-played "Indian Summer", a Victor Herbert melody from the turn of the century that was reworked by Al Dubin into a minor late 1930’s hit.
Peplowski is surely one of the modern masters of the clarinet, deserving equal recognition with other well-known players like Eddie Daniels and Paquito d'Riviera. His clarinet efforts are reminiscent of the masterful playing of Artie Shaw, at the peak of his technical and improvising skills before he left the music business forever nearly 50 years ago.
This is not a CD conceived around a clever theme, or a set designed to "break new ground" musically; instead it is a well-recorded document of a master artist doing what he loves best, playing before an enthusiastic audience and creating timeless, classic jazz.