Ken Peplowski shares his clarinet artistry on Grenadilla
, his 15th album as leader for Concord Records; the title comes from the particular type of wood used in making most clarinets. Working with the mainstream piano trio of Ben Aronov, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Chuck Redd, Peplowski presents an eclectic session. Guitarist Howard Alden guests on five songs and several clarinet virtuosos appear elsewhere. Peplowski works with Scott Robinson, Marty Ehrlich, and J.D. Parran on Greg Cohen's composed piece "Variations" using clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, respectively. Kenny Davern joins the leader to form a duo on "Farewell Blues," as each offers a lengthy clarinet solo backed by the piano trio and guitar. The two offer widely different approaches to clarinet articulation, but come together with this familiar trad jazz classic.
Ehrlich and Peplowski work with the piano trio on three pieces. "The Soul in the Wood" is particularly interesting because of its dramatic mainstream mood. It is Ehrlich's composition, and is driven by a firm piano bass line, doubled bass, and unison bass clarinet. It features Peplowski's imaginative clarinet along with a fine piano solo and well-planned ensemble counterpoint.
Peplowski and Alden have collaborated on nearly a dozen albums including their Concord Duo Series, Volume Three. The sensitive interplay on "Cry Me a River," as they trade lengthy solo sections, is at the very heart of jazz empathy and serves to remind us that an artist should always strike a balance between individuality and working with his teammates. Ben Aronov's "`Bye" and "Palisades" are presented by the pared-down ensemble of clarinet with piano trio. It's a chance to appreciate the delicate and lyrical nature of Peplowski's solo voice along with individual spotlights on each member of his straight-ahead quartet. Highly Recommended.