By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Enrapture
Jazz has numerous roots. One was swing, a term that can’t be used without thinking of Benny Goodman, often identified as “The King of Swing.” His horn was the clarinet; although a few pretenders came along, no one else had the same impact.
Many reed players start with that instrument, but most “graduate” to the saxophone, in its many variations. The major exception was Ken Peplowski, born 20 years after Goodman had been coronated.
Peplowski’s home was Cleveland, Ohio; his earliest experience (while still in elementary school) was playing in a Polish polka band for dances and weddings, almost every weekend. By the time young Ken was in high school, he was teaching at a local music store and playing with territory bands.
During his first year in college, he was hired by the Tommy Dorsey band, at that time led by Buddy Morrow. Peplowski played lead alto sax with the big band, and clarinet in a smaller combo within the ensemble.
During a subsequent lengthy career, Peplowski has recorded more than 50 CDs as a soloist, and at least 400 as a sideman. It’s almost impossible to find a name vocalist or musician with whom he hasn’t worked. As for his level of performance, as recently as 2015 he continues to receive awards for excellence.
This album features Peplowski on both clarinet and tenor sax. He’s joined by pianist Ehud Asherie, bassist Martin Wind, and drummer Matt Wilson. Peplowski’s execution is flawless, his tone a thing of beauty, and his ideas boundless.
As for the album contents, Duke Ellington’s “The Flaming Sword” is a calypso-flavored gem; “An Affair to Remember” and John Lennon’s “Oh My Love” are beautiful ballads. “Cheer Up Charlie” hails from the soundtrack to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, of all things; “Vertigo Scene D’Amour” comes from the Hitchcock film. We know “Willow Tree” from Fats Waller, and “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart” from Noel Coward. That’s just a taste; everything is gorgeous.