I can’t say I have spent much time listening to sax and clarinet player Peplowski – I mostly remember his name from a few tracks caught on the radio with the late Kenny Davern.
He has a reputation as being a traditionalist but has actually played across different genres of jazz in his time – his bio includes playing Dixieland and avant-garde and he has links to some of the greats including Sonny Stitt, Charlie Byrd, Cedar Walton, and George Shearing. And after a stint working with Benny Goodman when he came out of retirement in the early ‘80s, his tone and style have been compared to Goodman’s.
My jazz taste is pretty wide – as well as Goodman (including the ground-breaking 1938 Carnegie Hall concert) my collection includes stuff from the early days through Louis Armstrong, swing, be-bop, the East vs West Coast years, and modern stuff including British and Scandinavian bands and a lot of South African jazz. I don’t have much time for revivalist trad styles finding them weak and too glitzy compared to the originals.
All this is to set the scene as a reviewer’s opinion is only that – opinion and more often than not based on their own taste and views on the music. So if I am less than enthusiastic about this CD it’s because it doesn’t hit the emotional and heart-felt heights that make me really sit up and listen.
Most of this record drifts by in a pleasant but uninvolving way and it does not capture the imagination. For sure Peplowski is a very skilled player as are his sidemen and there is music by Ellington, Harry Warren, John Lennon, Bernard Hermann and Fats Waller. But sadly there is little that shows any great insight or new ways of interpreting the music.
Peplowski’s tone is assured, smooth and full on both clarinet and tenor. He is mellifluous most of the time with very little edge. An exception is Twelve taken fast and in a more modern almost free style.
His band on this recording date consists of players whose work I don’t know but by they are high-quality player in their own right. Ehud Asherie is a young Israeli piano player on the NYC scene, Martin Wind is a German bass player and teacher of high regard and Matt Wilson is an American drummer with a good reputation and a long string of recordings to his name.
It’s the leaders taste that dominates and I get the feeling that in another context the sidemen would show a different aspect to their jazz playing. As it is Asherie is very tasteful throughout. Wind has a lovely tone and sets up Oh My Love with a strong intro and then does great bowing on Vertigo and Willow Tree. Wilson provides a solid underpinning.
It’s all perfectly pleasant and acceptable and others with a different taste will find it a relaxing if undemanding listen, but not for me.