Ken Peplowski – in search of… – Capri Records 74108-2, 68:49 ****:
(Ken Peplowski – clarinet and tenor sax; Shelly Berg – piano; Tom Kennedy – bass; Jeff Hamilton – drums (tracks 1-9); Greg Cohen – bass (tracks 10&11); Joe Ascione – percussion (track 11);drums (track12); Chuck Redd – vibraphone (track 11))
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.
TrackList: 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; Rum And Coca Cola.
— Pierre Giroux