The splenetic and hard-nosed clarinetist/bandleader Benny Goodman admired tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski enough to hire the younger musician on for his last performing band, during the mid-1980s. But the Cleveland, Ohio-born and bred Peplowski's main ax was, in fact, the clarinet. He spent a good part of his early career playing in Polish polka bands, and hiring on to play whatever other music jobs that were available. He eventually joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, under the baton of Buddy Morrow, and studied with saxophonist Sonny Stitt, before taking the Goodman job, going on to team with labels including Concord, Nagel-Heyer and Capri, putting out more than thirty albums as a leader, including the marvelous Noir Blue (Capri, 2010).
In Search Of ... finds Peplowski in a beautifully laidback, often swinging quartet setting with two first-rate groups, class acts both. The cool refinement and musicianship are of the highest order, with Peplowski as smooth and mellifluous as they come on clarinet, and possessing a very mellow, Ben Webster-ish tone on tenor. Shelly Berg, the pianist on the first nine numbers, displays a clean, restrained and tasty touch, similar to that of Hank Jones, and he also contributes a couple of strikingly lovely tunes: "In Flower," an homage to Duke Ellington's partner, Billy Strayhorn; and "Peps"for Peplowski, of course.
"A Ship Without a Sail," an obscure Rodgers and Hart tune, floats along with subtle grace, while Rodgers and Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine" is pensive, suffused with a feeling of lonely regret.
"No Regrets" introduces three numbers from the second recording session. A duet with bassist Greg Cohen is bouncy and upbeat, with Peplowski swinging with zest on tenor. "Within You Without You," a George Harrison tune from The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967), lends a haunting, Eastern mood, while "Rum and Coca Cola," referencing Professor Longhair's version of the song, ends the set on a loose-limbed New Orleans note.
The Thespian; Love's Disguise; When Joanna Loved Me; Falsa Baiana; A Ship Without A Sail; With Every Breath I Take; In Flower; Peps; This Nearly Was Mine; No Regrets; Within You And Without You; Rum And Coca Cola.
Ken Peplowski: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Shelly Berg: piano (1-9); Tom Kennedy: bass (1-9); Jeff Hamilton: drums (1-9); Greg Cohen: bass (10, 11); Chuck Redd: vibraphone (11); Joe Ascione: percussion (11), drums (12).
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