Noir Blue is a slight coloring outside the lines for clarinetist/saxophonist Ken Peplowski. His most recent recordings (with Arbors and Nagel Heyer) have focused on older swing forms and repertoire. Presently, Peplowski is playing pure jazz quartet music with pianist Shelly Berg, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Joe La Barbera. The song choice is anything but standard, thought it never ventures too far from Peplowski's comfort zone.
Noir Blue is heavy on the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn book, clocking in with a third of the 10 selections on the disc. The seldom played "Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies" plays like a light Latin ballad, with Peplowski's taut clarinet keeping close score. Strayhorn's "Multi-Colored Blue" faintly recalls "Our Love is Here to Stay." Peplowski's clarinet is slippery, coating the sparse accompaniment by his rhythm section. It is a sound to behold, well-balanced and wholesome. His blues sensibility is tested about half-way through the piece and Peps passes with flying colors.
The title tune is a moody, ascending affair that recalls "Mood Indigo" like the trace of cologne left by a recently departed inamorata. Berg's piano is as hauntingly pensive as Peplowski's clarinet. The two sonically fill out the song with the rhythm section. Peplowski uses some Jimmy Giuffre flights of fancy in his second solo, opening the song widely.
Peplowski's tenor playing is equally beguiling on Hoagy Carmichael's "Riverboat Shuffle" and the Jerome Kern chestnut, "Nobody Else But Me." While never straying too far from the source, Peplowski and company produce a full-bodied release of solid interpretations that are as pleasing as they are compelling.
The Best Think for You; Home With You; Bourbon Street Jingle Jollies;
Riverboat Shuffle; Love Locked Out; If Not For You; Multi-colored Blue;
Noir Blue; Nobody Else But Me; Little Dogs.