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Ken Peplowski/Bucky Pizzarelli Quintet at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

Dan Bilawsky By

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Ken Peplowski/Bucky Pizzarelli Quintet
Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
New York, NY
November 23, 2010

When the dust has settled on Halloween, the leaves have all fallen off of the trees and the temperature takes a dip, it's clear that Thanksgiving is only a short while away. At Thanksgiving, people come together with family, reunite with old friends and take pause to give thanks for all that we have. Jazz fans in New York go through the same process and an appreciative audience was on hand at Dizzy's to give thanks for the music of reedman Ken Peplowski and guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli. Their co-lead outfit has been a Thanksgiving week fixture at Dizzy's for the past five years and the opening set on this particular week was filled with wit, wisdom and musical gems.

Peplowski started the evening off on tenor saxophone and counted off the opening number—the appropriately titled "Together." As the solos passed around on this mid-tempo swinger, pianist Derek Smith delivered some saloon-style piano work and bassist David Finck cleverly inserted a "Back Home Again In Indiana" quote into his own lines. At song's end, Peplowski made note of the Benny Goodman bona fides of the band—with Pizzarelli, Smith and the reedman himself all having worked with Goodman at different times—and the band dove into a smoking take on "The World Is Waiting For a Sunrise." Peplowski delivered some Goodman-worthy clarinet lines and his solo trading with drummer Chuck Redd segued into a Gene Krupa-ish drum showcase.

Peplowski served up the witty banter between songs, but he wasn't one to hog the spotlight and the audience received a good dose of Pizzarelli's solo guitar styling. While Pizzarelli spent a good part of the evening in Freddie Green-mode, delivering four-to-the-bar chords that kept the group moving, his solo guitar renditions of "The Very Thought Of You" and "It's Easy To Remember/This Nearly Was Mine" showed off a different side of his playing. Pizzarelli didn't pander to volume expectations of modern crowds and the audience immediately adjusted the general tone in the room, arriving at complete silence to take in his softly delivered balladic beauties. "The Very Thought Of You" was the first in a three song tribute to Ray Noble, which continued with "The Touch Of Your Lips" and concluded with a dreamy take on "Love Locked Out." Peplowski capped off the latter tune with a brief cadenza that showcased his sensuous subtone saxophone sound.

Smith's solo feature came next in the program and he brought a heightened sense of drama to his introductory statements, but Redd nearly stole the show when he moved to vibraphone for "The Shadow Of Your Smile." The date of this performance coincided with Johnny Mandel's birthday and the band—under Redd's direction for this one tune—paid tribute to the legendary composer with one of the most finely nuanced interpretations that this piece has probably ever seen. Redd remained at the vibes for "Lullaby Of The Leaves"—another classic from the Goodman playbook—but he was back on drums after the aforementioned Richard Rodgers medley from Pizzarelli. The set closed out with a nod to Charlie Christian—legendary guitarist with Goodman—in the form of his "Air Mail Special." Peplowski, Pizzarelli and Smith were in sync as they delivered the familiar melody and everybody—save Finck—received some solo space on this burning finale. It's rather easy to be thankful for performances like this one, and one can only hope that Peplowski and Pizzarelli will be around for a sixth year to perform Thanksgiving week at Dizzy's.

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