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Boy, do they ever! The belief in and enthusiasm for the swing music of the great B.G. bubbles to the surface everywhere in this exuberant concert date by the six-member group of International All-Stars (who are joined on the last three numbers by ace clarinetists Allan Vaché and Antti Sarpila). Each of these "stars" has a specific role to play, and one marvels at how easily everyone coalesces to help reconstruct the sort of loose-limbed "jam session" atmosphere that prevailed when Goodman was known far and wide as the King of Swing. As nominal "leader" and clarinet/tenor soloist extraordinaire Ken Peplowski says in the liner notes, after putting the band together his task was to "stay out of the way as much as possible and let things happen." He does - and they do. Peplowski and his colleagues approach each of these songs - which were either written or played by Benny - as if it's the last one they'll ever play (the same approach that earned Goodman his crown). Although Peplowski is the only one with a horn in his hands, it's scarcely noticeable next to the fireworks set off by Erstrand, Alden, Shane, Skeat and Ascione. They really burn, and when Peplowski adds his assertive clarinet, as he does on five of the first seven numbers (he plays tenor on "Sleep," sits out on "Jingles"), one can almost believe that Benny's group is riding high again. "Jingles" is an unaccompanied tour de force for pianist Shane whose percussive two-fisted style owes as much to Dave McKenna as it does to Teddy Wilson. Ascione and Skeat are twin towers of strength while Alden and Erstrand add weight to the rhythm section and solo with typical dexterity and perception. The appearance of Vaché and Sarpila (on "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Body and Soul," "Lulu's Back in Town") serves only to upraise an already imposing level of excitement and proficiency. Yes, the music is reheated Swing Era fare, but it's seldom dished up with as much fire or fondness as this.
Track Listing: The Sheik of Araby; I Must Have That Man; Jingles; Sleep; All the Things You Are; Jubilee; Everything I Love; Stompin' at the Savoy; Body and Soul; Lulu's Back in Town (66:29).
Personnel: Ken Peplowski, tenor sax, clarinet; Lars Erstrand, vibes; Howard Alden, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Len Skeat, bass; Joe Ascione, drums; with guests Antti Sarpila and Allan Vach
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.