How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Ken Peplowski, who has done some experimenting of late within the big-band and classical spheres, comes home to a straight-ahead quartet groove for Grenadilla, on which he plays only clarinet (grenadilla is the name of the wood from which the world's finest clarinets are made). This is clarinet all the way, with Peplowski's group augmented by guests Kenny Davern ("Farewell Blues"), Marty Ehrlich ("Copi," "The Reconsidered Blues," "Variations," "The Soul in the Wood"), J. D. Parran and Scott Robinson ("Variations"). The always tasteful and swinging guitarist Howard Alden is another welcome guest (on "Benny's Pennies," "Voce e Eu," Indian Summer," "Farewell Blues," "Cry Me a River"). Aronov is apparently one of Peplowski's favorites, and it's not hard to understand why. Besides playing first-rate piano (both as soloist and accompanist), he wrote three of the most engaging tunes on the disc ("Benny's Pennies," "'Bye," "Palisades"). Ehrlich contributed two numbers ("Reconsidered Blues," "Soul in the Wood") and bassist Cohen one ("Variations," scored for a "choir" of clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet - with "Soul in the Wood" the most atypical snacks on the menu). While Peplowski plays wonderfully in any style, I think he's most captivating on "Indian Summer" (marvelous walking introduction by Alden, Cohen and Redd), the fast-moving "Farewell Blues" (trading dead-on shots with Davern), Vinicius de Moraes' Latin charmer, "Voce e Eu," and the Aronov compositions, especially "Benny's Pennies," which sounds straight out of Goodman. That's not to imply that anything else here is less than admirable. Whatever the nature of the music, Peplowski unravels it about as well as anyone. If you like clarinet, you'll love Grenadilla.
Benny's Pennies; Voce e Eu; Copi; 'Bye; The Reconsidered Blues; Variations; The Soul in the Wood; Palisades; Indian Summer; Farewell Blues; Cry Me a River (63:38).
Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Ben Aronov, piano; Greg Cohen, bass; Chuck Redd, drums; Howard Alden, acoustic and electric guitars (1, 2, 9-11); Kenny Davern, clarinet (10); Marty Ehrlich, clarinet, bass clarinet (3, 5-7); J. D. Parran, contrabass clarinet (6); Scott Robinson, alto clarinet (6).