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Dick Hyman & Ken Peplowski: ...Live At The Kitano

Dan Bilawsky By

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If musical knowledge and taste were currency, pianist Dick Hyman and clarinetist Ken Peplowski would be two of the wealthiest men around. Hyman, an octogenarian legend with killer technique and near-unparalleled knowledge about virtually every style of jazz, and Peplowski, the witty woodwind wonder who stands tall as one of the clarinet kingpins on the scene today, make for a perfect match. Both men have deep respect for the tradition(s) of this music, but neither one looks at jazz as a museum piece; they both recognize that it's a living and breathing art form that's open to endless interpretation and variation, and they take full advantage of this fact here.

...Live At The Kitano, as the title simply states, was recorded on site at that hotel-based venue on Park Avenue in New York. Hyman and Peplowski, who've played together with rhythm section backing on various occasions over the past quarter century, came to The Kitano to do it up duo-style for a weekend in 2012; what they delivered—and captured on record—is a gift to the world.

Hyman and Peplowski move effortlessly and comfortably from Thelonious Monk to W.C. Handy, capturing all the nuances that live within the music while putting their own stamp on each piece. "The Blue Room" blooms into a beautifully open environment, "Ugly Beauty" is given as a slightly re-harmonized waltz, and "Yellow Dog Blues" becomes a rolling-along boogie-woogie winner. Hyman and Peplowski appear to communicate telepathically during "I Mean You!," dovetailing and crossing streams in a near reflexive, yet often unexpected manner, and they connect at a deep emotional level on "My Ship."

While Peplowski's clarinet remains his calling card, he never leaves home without his tenor and he puts it to good use in a couple places here. The lively "Lover, Come Back To Me/Quicksilver" and mellow "Gone With The Wind" serve as a firm reminder that he remains a true woodwind double threat.

Singling out special performances on this album is almost a waste of time because every number falls under the "special" heading. Recordings like this tend to get short shrift when the polls get published, but maybe it'll be different this time. Hyman and Peplowski may not push boundaries or be on the cusp of the new in jazz, but what they have to offer is no less compelling.

Track Listing: The Blue Room; Gone With The Wind; I Mean You!; Yellow Dog Blues; Lucky To Be Me; The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise; Ugly Beauty; My Ship; Lover, Come Back To Me/Quicksilver.

Personnel: Dick Hyman: piano; Ken Peplowski: clarinet (1, 3-8), tenor saxophone (2, 9).

Title: ...Live At The Kitano | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Victoria

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