Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ken Peplowski: Maybe September

An unintentional reaction against our ever - perfect world (Quote: Ken Peplowski)

Clarinet giant Ken Peplowski: a helluva singer (quote: Tony Bennett)
Hans Koert

Ken Peplowski is one of those rather unknown reed players, that deserves further recognition, famous in the States, but rather unknown in this part of the world, although he joined several festivals in Europe. 
Born in Cleveland (OH) May 1959, he started his career in the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, directed by Buddy Morrow, former trombone player in Artie Shaw's 1930s band. He debuted on record in The Bad Little Big Band directed by Richard Iacona ( 1984); played in the 1980s with Leon Redbone and Benny Goodman, who was still active until his death in 1986. In 1987 Ken debuted under his own name at a Concord album, entitled Double Exposure with a quintet.

Ken Peplowski (source:

Many abums would follow with musicians like Hank Jones and Mark Shane, nowadays the regular piano player of Catherine Russell  and with Charlie Byrd: The Bossa Nova Years (1991). During the 1990s Ken was labeled by the All Music Guide as ……….. one of the top clarinetists ……….  who kept the tradition of small group swing ( and occasionally Dixieland) alive.   He accompanied great names like Mel Tormé and Rosemary Clooney and made some great duo-recordings with Howard Alden.
Recently a new album by Ken Peplowski was released at the Capri Records label, entitled Maybe September.

Ken Peplowski - Maybe September (Capri 74125) (cover: Edward Hopper: Gas)

The Ken Peplowski Quartet features Ted Rosenthal at the piano, Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson drums. The album was recorded in New York City, the 17th of July, 2012.
The album contains almost a dozen tracks – a various selection of compositions – a heterogeneous company of composers and styles. Ken is a musicians who don’t wants to be limited to jazz styles only: …… We’re no longer surprised to hear him play selections from the songbooks of either Costello or Presley – and A Fool Such As I goes back well before either. Will Friedwald, journalist of the Wall Street Journal says in the liner notes.  The latter track mentioned, full entitled, Now And Then There’s a Fool Such As I was originally recorded by Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger, a Canadian country artist, and was also a number one hit in the UK in Elvis Presley’s version.  Another track that proofs Ken’s weird selection is Without Her, composed and released at the 1967 Nilsson album Pandemonium Shadow Show and is played by bands like Blood, Sweat and Tears (1968) and Herb Albert (1969).

Ken Peplowski (source:

Ken Peplowski surprised me as a great clarinet player. It’s not so strange that  they compare his clarinet playing style with Benny Goodman's - he’s a skilled swing clarinet player and I opened this blog with a weird quote by Tony Bennett, who labeled Ken, after a concert he joined, that he was … a helluva singer …  Will says about this “incident”: Tony is not a particularly verbose man …. He’ll never use two notes – or words – when one will do, and he choses his words very carefully.  Although Ken is a clarinet player ( he plays tenor saxophone at the title tune) ….. but when Tony describes him as a singer, he knows exactly what he’s talking about.  Ken tells a story when he plays his music – that’s the message Mr. Bennett wanted to share.

Ken Peplowski (source:

The picture used for the cover is one of Edward Hopper's famous paintings, entitled Gas, as it is in the Museum of Modern Art (NY). Listen to the Al Dubin – Harry Warren composition I’ll String Along With You  and learn what Tony Bennett meant with …. A helluva singer:

There is a world of difference between making a pop-album or a jazz recording. In the liner notes Kim explains that the entire recording was made within three hours .... I've elected to record all of us close together in the studio, set up almost like a live gig, direct to two-track. .... not because we were going for some world record, but because it felt right when we'd finished. Ken explaions in the liner notes, that ... This record is kind of an unintentional reaction against our ever - perfect world. This is a pretty much a "warts and all", raw-boned effort, but we stand by what we played on that particular day in 2012n (17th of July). (Ken Peplowski in the liner notes)
To finish this review, I love to share with you part of a live performance in Bern where he plays the well known Tiger Rag together with the great guitar player Frank Vignola ( = Peter Parker). This tune is not part of the album, but shows why Ken is such a great clarinet player. 

I liked this enjoyable record.  Hope you will love it too. Get your copy!

MY JAZZ LINKS: Ken Peplowski

Hans Koert
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Ken Peplowski is a standard in clarinet playing.  He is compared with the great Benny Goodman, with whom he played some gigs during the last years of his career. Recently Ken Peplowski released an album with his quartet, featuring a great rhythm section: Ted Rosenthal at the piano, Martin Wind on bass and Matt Wilson drums - The album is entitled Maybe September.

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