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Ken Peplowski: Noir Blue (2010)

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Ken Peplowski: Noir Blue How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

In his liner notes, saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Peplowski reveals that after hitting fifty, he had no desire to make albums that are going through the motions of record company requirements. Not that such bodies are lately in a position to demand anything. He now intends to make recordings when the inspiration is strong and when the circumstances align in an encouraging fashion. A major part of this disc's genesis seems to be the rapport that Peplowski shares with pianist Shelly Berg
Shelly Berg
Shelly Berg

piano
. Also on hand are Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart
b.1940
bass
(bass) and Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
Joe LaBarbera
b.1948
drums
(drums), both of whom navigate the common ground with equal ease.

A flurry of piano/clarinet exchanges push the album underway on Irving Berlin's "The Best Thing For You." It's a fluid dialogue of short solos, delivered at a confident speed. Peplowski chooses clarinet for the first three tunes, soon going soft for Berg's "Home With You" and Ellington/Strayhorn's "Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies." The first has a vaguely pan-Latin mood, softly gliding while the second is gentler than might be expected, but still continuing the sensitive thoughtfulness. Peplowski's flute-like phrases are embellished by delicate-but-emphatic piano, as La Barbera's drums make their clicking curlicues.

Four tracks in and Peplowski brings out his meatier tenor saxophone, sounding like the DNA-tested son of Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
. Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
1899 - 1981
piano
's "Riverboat Shuffle" has a strongly nostalgic feel and the tender balladry resumes for "Love Locked Out." La Barbera provides "If Not For You," which is more of a bebopper, complete with his own climactic (and inevitable) drum solo.

A Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
twosome begins with "Multi-Colored Blue," the slowest slink of all, and by this time Peplowski has picked up his predominant clarinet. Berg implies a gospel root and the ooze continues through the title cut. The album is a well-paced entity, as "Nobody Else But Me" turns up as a toughened tenor swinger.

Peplowski penned the closing tune, "Little Dogs," inspired by Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
. It's not as free as he seems to think, but this doesn't detract from its worth. There's more tenor with bite, but the breakdowns, exchanges and time-swerves suggest a significant degree of premeditation. It remains an atypical piece, though, and provides a fitting close to such a mood-swinging sequence. Peplowski has delivered another one of his perfectly poised examples of good taste. Fortunately, this well-behaved nature never leads to the good becoming the neutered.

Track Listing: The Best Thing For You; Home With You; Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies; Riverboat Shuffle; Love Locked Out; If Not For You; Multi-Colored Blue; Noir Blue; Nobody Else But Me; Little Dogs.

Personnel: Ken Peplowski: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Shelly Berg: piano; Jay Leonhart: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums.

Record Label: Capri Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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