Featuring the seventeen-minute "Homage Concerto For Clarinet And Jazz Orchestra" with Loren Schoenberg's big band backing clarinetist Ken Peplowski, this session is well-balanced, with four numbers by the leader's small group and four with the large ensemble. Peplowski plays clarinet on three tracks; tenor saxophone on the other four.
His experience with the Tommy Dorsey ghost orchestra under Buddy Morrow's direction, working some with Benny Goodman, and more recently with Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, and as a duo with Howard Alden, has gained the clarinetist considerable exposure; this is his fourteenth Concord Records album as a leader. On tenor saxophone, Peplowski maintains a quiet posture on "Luck Be A Lady" and "I've Never Been In Love Before." The latter is arranged by guitarist James Chirillo, includes Schoenberg's big band, and features a delightful bass clarinet solo by Danny Bank.
Bassist Greg Cohen composed "Dream Theme" with the random qualities of a stereotypical dream in mind; it features Peplowski's dreamy tenor, the composer's lyrical bass solo, and pianist Ben Aronov's dreamy keyboard work as well. The "Homage Concerto for Clarinet and Jazz Orchestra" in three movements was written by Chirillo and naturally infuses a classical bent. The names of each movement, "Swing," "Elegy," and "Driving," give one a feel for what is being accomplished. It is Peplowski's strong point, and the big band backs him capably. Duke Ellington's "Purple Gazelle" finds guest tenorist Loren Schoenberg beside the quartet of clarinetist Peplowski, pianist Aronov, bassist Cohen, and drummer Chuck Redd. With a Latin rhythm and a unique Monkish piano outing, the clarinet and tenor saxophone trade phrases and work very well together. The full orchestra returns for the final track, Duke Ellington's arrangement of "Royal Garden Blues." Up-tempo, yet relaxed with a swing, the big band works out behind the confident and imaginative clarinet solos by Ken Peplowski.