How on earth do you successfully bind the music of Duke Ellington, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Fats Waller, Herbie Nichols, Bernard Herrmann, Peter Erskine, and Noël Coward into one coherent statement? The answer is simple: You don't, unless you're Ken Peplowski. Over the course of ten tracks from the aforementioned composers and other well-known tunesmiths, Peplowski manages to simultaneously express his love of myriad sounds and styles, a fondness for days gone by, and an ability to move ever onward. This much-heralded reed man wears his eclecticism like a badge of honor on Enrapture, an album that speaks to his ability to dig into the past while also addressing his outlook on the present.
In his liner essay for this project, Peplowski remarks on the true-to-self nature of this quartet recording, noting that "this is us, in as close to a live setting as one could ask for in a recording environment." In keeping with that statement, the majority of the performances captured here are first takes. The decision to work that way proves to be a smart play, as the band is able to capitalize on the energy, spontaneity, and attentiveness that can only exist on the first pass of a song. Peplowski also shows himself to be practiced in the art of sequencing songs, shrewdly playing to diverse tastes and the constant need for mood change-ups.
In lesser hands, the idea of knocking out a slew of songs in short order and moving all over the map could be disastrous, but it's a winning formula for this foursomePeplowski's working quartet, with pianist Ehud Asherie, bassist Martin Wind, and drummer Matt Wilson. This band sounds like a million bucks all the way through, from the reveille-like kick-off at the top of "The Flaming Sword"an adrenaline-fueled slice of tropically-infused Ellingtonian exoticato the easy-does-it, bluesy send-off of "Willow Tree." And rest assured, there's plenty to enjoy and admire in between those bookends. Peplowski's inviting tenor pleasantly glides along on "An Affair To Remember," Wind's bass and Peplowski's clarinet engage in a slow and revealing pas de deux on "Oh, My Love," Erskine's "Twelve" gives the band a chance to pull at the threads of convention and take a looser and more interactive approach to group (inter)play, and the slowly unfolding beauty and drama of "Vertigo Scene D'Amour/Madeleine (Love Music From "Vertigo")" highlights the emotional experiences of the protagonist in Hitchcock's classic film. All the in-studio discussions, extra takes, and edits in the world couldn't produce a better outcome than what these four did in the heat of the moment(s) to create Enrapture.
The Flaming Sword; An Affair To Remember; Oh, My Love; Cheer Up, Charlie; I'll Follow My Secret Heart; Enrapture; Twelve; Vertigo Scene D'Amour/Madeleine (Love Music From "Vertigo"); When October Goes; Willow Tree.
Ken Peplowski: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Ehud Asherie: Piano; Martin Wind: Bass; Matt Wilson: Drums.