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Ken Peplowski / Jesper Thilo: Happy Together - Live At Birdland Volume One

Andrew Velez By

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Ken Peplowski / Jesper Thilo: Happy Together - Live At Birdland Volume One Ken Peplowski and Jesper Thilo have much more in common than the solid expertise of each on both tenor saxophone and clarinet as demonstrated here. The two effortlessly and authentically bring the Swing Era to vibrant life anew. With "Peps," who began his professional career with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, one has only to hear the first few notes from his clarinet on "I Want to Be Happy" to appreciate how great an influence Benny Goodman had on him. Thilo's thrilling trilling, as he races up and down the scales on "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise," is more straight-tahead and euphoric Swing Era jazz. This number is also an opportunity for some friendly dueling of clarinets that understandably evokes excited roars from the audience on this live set.

Don't misunderstand. This is no mere nostalgic or imitative nod to a bygone era. On the '40s classic, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," Peplowski weaves an alluring spell that is as intricate as it is delicately dreamy. On this tune and throughout the set, Thilo Wagner's piano offers accompaniment that is subtle and quiet so that at times it almost seems on the verge of disappearing. Yet somehow it doesn't and the effect is to lend a constant underpinning of melodic strength.

Everyone gets time to swing easy on the wrap-up number, an extended take on Edison/Hendricks' "Centerpiece." Both Peplowski and Thilo give out with unhurried tenor sax sweetness on this one, Thilo especially, with a warmth that for this listener recalled shades of the great Ben Webster.

Hey fellas, bring on Volume Two!

Track Listing: Vignette; I Want to Be Happy; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You; The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; In Your Own Sweet Way; Centerpiece.

Personnel: Ken Pelowski: tenor saxophone (1, 7), clarinet (1, 4, 5); Jesper Thilo: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 3, 7), clarinet (4) and vocals; Thilo Wagner: piano; Isla Eckinger: bass; Gregor Beck: drums.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Nagel Heyer Records | Style: Big Band


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