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Ken Peplowski: Clarinet Conqueror

By Published: December 5, 2008

AAJ: What projects are on the drawing board?

KP: I did my final definitive Benny Goodman big band project for Warners. We did Fletcher Henderson charts with a great New York band in Bennett Studios, which is run by Tony Bennett's son in New Jersey. It's a state- of-the-art studio, a beautiful room. They really know how to record a big band. It's like my final take on all that stuff. That's coming out this fall. I don't know the title.

AAJ: Are you still playing with Howard Alden?

KP: Yeah, we did a recent CD for Arbors called Pow-Wow. We still try to do some duo gigs whenever we can. We did the Ottawa Jazz Festival this summer.

AAJ: I know you've played avant-garde gigs, too.

KP: I like all kinds of jazz. I like working with bassist Greg Cohen; we try to do a gig together whenever we can. A couple months ago we played BargeMusic in Brooklyn as a duo. We got into all different kinds of things there. It's a fun thing. If it's an avant-garde gig, I still try to do it the way I play. I think Ornette Coleman has a great melodic sense. I like some kind of form in things, overarching sense of structure and form and he's got that even when he plays supposedly free jazz.

AAJ: Tell me about your upcoming series at Dizzy's Club.

KP: It's become an annual gig. We started two years ago doing a Benny Goodman tribute there. We can't get any more authentic than having Bucky [Pizzarelli] and Derek Watkins [like Peplowski, both worked with Goodman]. The people loved it, we sold out every show. Instead of doing Goodman, we're doing songbooks. Each set will be the music of a different composer. This year it will be Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael and, since we do three sets on the weekend, I'll add Duke Ellington, too. That's a great band for this kind of thing, because the musicians already know the tunes I might call and even if they don't, it's right up their alley. I could go the 'hip' route and get guys to do de-constructions of old songs, but I really respect the material and want to do it right.

Selected Discography

Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski, Dialogues (Arbors, 2007)

Howard Alden/Ken Peplowski, Pow-Wow (Arbors, 2006)

Ken Peplowski, Easy to Remember (Nagel-Heyer Germany, 2004)
Ken Peplowski, Lost in the Stars (Nagel-Heyer Germany, 2002)

Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski, Jazz KENNection (Arbors, 2000)

Ken Peplowski, Last Swing of the Century (Concord, 1998)

Ken Peplowski, Grenadilla (Concord, 1998)

Ken Peplowski, The Other Portrait (Concord, 1996)

Ken Peplowski, Steppin' With Peps (Concord, 1993)

Ken Peplowski, The Natural Touch (Concord, 1992)

Randy Sandke's New Yorkers, Stampede/Wildcats! (Jazzology, 1990/1992)

Ken Peplowski, Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool (Concord, 1990)

Ken Peplowski, Illuminations (Concord, 1990)

Hank Jones, Lazy Afternoon (Concord, 1989)

Ken Peplowski, Sonny Side (Concord, 1989)

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