Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ken Peplowski – Maybe September

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


"Peplowski sounds the way (Benny) Goodman might if he had kept evolving, kept on listening to new music, kept refining his sound, polishing his craft, and expanding his musical purview into the 21st century."
-Will Friedwald, The Wall Street Journal

"...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."
— Lloyd Sachs, JazzTimes

“… Ken is ever on the lookout for ways to recast to recast the classic idiom. He subtly reworks those now slightly shopworn phrases, sometimes subverts them entirely and then, just to prove that he’s no wrecker, restates them with absolute fidelity to the originals.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

I couldn’t have recorded Maybe September without first hearing Tony Bennett’s sublime reading with [pianist] Bill Evans….”
-Ken Peplowski

"…  you're a helluva singer."
- Tony Bennett to Ken Peplowski [upon hearing him play Maybe September]

As of August 20, 2013, Ken Peplowski has a new CD out on Tom Burns’ Capri label entitled Maybe September [#74125-2].

It’s a remarkable recording from a number of perspectives, not the least of which is that it has a ton of good music on it.

I got to know Ken a bit when he served as emcee for Jazz festivals that played at a nearby hotel during Presidents Day and Labor Day weekends.

Ken struck me as a genial guy with a highly developed sense of humor.

His clarinet playing was understated, but filled with interesting ideas, a gorgeous tone and, not surprisingly, a lot of the wittiness that influences so much of his overall personality.

I mean what with the brilliant banter and marvelous music, you might have thought that Ken was something along the lines of what the original creators of the music considered themselves to be – an entertainer!

Both he and his music are so accessible.

The best part of it all was that whatever music he played on either clarinet or tenor saxophone, Ken swung his backside off.

I became an instant fan and I look forward to each new release of his music on CD, as well as, seeking out every opportunity to hear in play in performance.

As Will Friedwald explains in his insert notes to Ken’s new CD:

:Hearing Ken Peplowski play Percy Faith's Maybe September - a song invariably associated with the great Tony Bennett (who sang it, most famously, as a duet with the equally great Bill Evans), brings to mind an occasion (one of many) when Ken was playing at Dizzy's with yet another great, the wonderful Barbara Carroll. Mr. Bennett is a longtime close friend of Ms. Carroll, and makes it his business to be there whenever she's playing. On this night, upon hearing Mr. Peplowski with Ms. Carroll, Tony approached Ken after the set and said to him, in typically pithy Tony fashion, " you're a helluva singer."

Tony is not a particularly verbose man  -  like his own hero, Count Basie, he'll never use two notes  - or words - when one will do, and he chooses his words very carefully. Mr. Peplowski is a clarinet player (and frequently, as on "Maybe Septem­ber," a tenor saxophonist as well), but when Tony describes him as a singer, he knows exactly what he's talking about. For Ken, no less than Tony or any great singer, performing a song is all about telling the story, communicating the narrative. As a musician, whose domain is notes rather than words, Ken knows well that narrative is not only a function of the lyrics but present in the whole equation of the performance: the melody, the harmonies, the tempo and the time signature also make a difference in how a narrative idea is conveyed, and especially the improvisation. With some jazzmen, the idea is that as soon as the head is finished, it's time to ‘go into business for yourself’ (as Jimmy Durante would say), but Mr. Peplowski knows well that the improvised solo is the ideal moment to extend the narrative, and create an even more personal bond with the listener….”


Here’s another perspective of the music on Maybe September, this one offered by Ken himself.

“This record is kind of an unintentional reaction against our ever - perfect world - I've elected to record all of us close together in the studio, set up almost like a live gig, direct to two-track, with the assistance and great encouragement of Malcolm Addey, engineer, and Tom Burns, producer.

We did the whole thing in somewhere around three hours, not because we were going for some world record, but because it felt right when we'd finished. This is pretty much a "warts and all", raw-boned effort, but we stand by what we played on that particular day in 2012. You'll note a preponder­ance of "heartbreakers" in the material chosen; I've been drawn more and more to try and capture the pure emotion inherent in the songs I've chosen - I hope I've even partially succeeded, dear listener...one more thing - the song order follows a kind of arc of a relationship that could only be destined for ultimate failure - this is purely fictional, I assure you.”


Ann Braithwaite and her crackerjack team at Braithwaite & Katz sent out the following media release after which you’ll find Ken’s version of I’ll String Along With You as the soundtrack for a video montage of the paintings of Edward Hopper [1882-1967], one of which – Gas – serves as the cover art for Maybe September.

BRAITHWAITE & KATZ Communications NEWS RELEASE                                         

Master Clarinetist and Saxophonist Ken Peplowski Returns With Maybe September on Capri Records
Featuring A-list band with pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson

“Any listener who has followed the recording career of the extravagantly gifted instrumentalist Ken Peplowski expects two things. One is that he or she will hear clarinet and tenor saxophone playing of rare skill and beauty. The other is that the song selection will reflect the omnivorous musical taste of the leader, a yen for the eclectic that has found Peplowski dipping freely into the work of iconic jazz masters, grand architects of the Great American Songbook, and musical avatars of both the pop and classical musical universes.

Maybe September, to be released August 20 on Capri Records, is no exception. Peplowski once again splits his talents between the clarinet, an instrument that has brought him international recognition and award-winning acclaim over the past three decades, and the tenor saxophone, a horn on which Peplowski has proven himself a mainstream master.

If Peplowski's exceptional playing is, by now, a given, so is his delight in juxtaposing musical gems that would generally not find themselves alongside one another. Maybe September brings together bedrock composers including Irving Berlin, Harry Warren, and Percy Faith; the jazz titans, Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw; and pop giants Brian Wilson, Nilsson, and the unparalleled team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, while also finding space for the celebrated French composer, Francis Poulenc (Romanza from his Sonata for clarinet and piano) and the less celebrated Bill Trader (Now and Then) There's a Fool Such As I  — a hit for both the C&W stalwart Hank Snow, and later, the legendary Elvis Presley. As critic Will Friedwald remarks in relation to Peplowski's wide embrace of material: "...a great song is a great song and gold is where you find it."

This eclectic repertoire is further enhanced by Peplowski's creative use of his outstanding supporting players. Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson on drums make up a responsive team that skillfully underpins every dexterous move the leader makes. Hear their empathic communication amongst themselves and with Peplowski on the lovely Irving Berlin gem, All Alone By the Telephone; the Artie Shaw signature tune, Moon Ray; the gorgeous take on the Beach Boy's Pet Sounds classic, Caroline, No; an easy grooving excursion through Ellington's Main Stem; and the affecting Faith-Livingston-Evans title track, which Peplowski credits inspiration to the treasured Tony Bennett-Bill Evans performance.

By altering the configuration of the quartet throughout the album, Peplowski effectively assures additional variety. The Beatles' imperishable For No One and Harry Nilsson's wistful Without Her, are rendered as telepathic clarinet and bass duets; Romanza is, of course, a clarinet and piano duet; (Now and Then) There's a Fool Such As I sets Peplowski's dancing clarinet lines off of Wind and Wilson's adept rhythmic cushioning, sans Rosenthal; while the sole Peplowski original, Always A Bridesmaid, features propulsive duets between Wilson and the tenor-playing leader.

With his third album for Capri Records, following the noted NoirBlue, and In Search Of..., Peplowski has reestablished his status as one of the foremost jazz stylists to have emerged since the 1980s, and a vital presence for 21st century jazz.”




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