Tag Archives: Ken Peplowski



Pete Neighbour (hence the title) is a wonderful clarinetist, and his new CD, BACK IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, is a consistent delight.

Before you think, “If this fellow is so good, why haven’t I heard of him before?” put that thought to rest.  You have.  Here. And you can click here to hear some sound samples from this new CD and to learn more about this session. For those who feel disinclined to click, here are the details of the sixty-four minutes and seven seconds.  The compositions are I WANT TO BE HAPPY / BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS / I MAY BE WRONG / YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG / OPUS ONE / COME SUNDAY / LIZA / WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART? / TEACH ME TONIGHT / WILLOW WEEP FOR ME / A FOGGY DAY / AFTER YOU’VE GONE.  (I would start my listening session with BOULEVARD, which is a feathery, pensive masterpiece.)

The disc was recorded in London in September 2014; Pete appears with Jim Mullen, guitar; David Newton, piano; Nat Steele, vibraphone; Andrew Cleyndert, bass; Tom Gordon, drums.  Louise Cookman makes a guest vocal appearance on YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG and WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART?

Aside from a few rousers, the whole CD is carried off as a series of medium / medium-fast rhythm performances, where the band superbly rocks, quietly and persuasively.  Pete himself is a great lyrical player — hear his touching COME SUNDAY, which has a dear pulse but retains its hymnlike aspect.  And he resolutely chooses to sound like himself, although he is clearly inspired by Benny and Buddy — with a sidelong glance at Ken.  His approach, although he has technique to make any clarinetist consider bringing the instrument in for a trade, is not in rapid-fire flurries of notes.  Rather, Pete (in the best heroic way) constructs logical long-limbed phrases and sweet solos out of those phrases, everything fitting together in a way that sounds fully improvised but is also compositionally satisfying.  And the tempos chosen caress the songs rather than attacking the hearer. The rest of the band is quite wonderful, and each number unfolds in its own fashion without ever being predictable.  The session has the gentle exploratory air of a late Ruby Braff recording, as the band continually changes shape into duos and trios — with echoes of Dave McKenna and Ellis Larkins in the duets incorporating Newton’s piano. Louise Cookman, whom I’d not heard before, is a wonder: gently memorable on her two guest appearances.

For more about Pete, here is his Facebook page.

This very well-produced and reassuring CD is available through the usual sources, but here is an easy place to purchase one.  Or several, from the best musical Neighbour.

May your happiness increase!


I could write a long piece on the history of the West Texas Jazz Party — in Odessa, Texas — which in 2016 will celebrate its fiftieth year.  This, for those keeping count, makes it the longest-running jazz party in existence.  I could list the names of the luminaries who played, say, in 1980 — Red Norvo, John Best, Lou Stein, Carl Fontana, Kenny Davern, George Masso, Herb Ellis, Buddy Tate, Flip Phillips, Dave McKenna, Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson, PeeWee Erwin, Cliff Leeman, Bobby Rosengarden, John Bunch, Buddy Tate, and the still-vibrant Ed Polcer, Bucky Pizzarelli, Michael Moore, Bob Wilber.

The West Texas Jazz Society site can be found here — quite informative.

But I think it is more important to offer the evidence: the music made at this party, which is superb Mainstream jazz.  Here are several videos from the 2013 WTJP — they will unfold in sequence if you allow them to — featuring Ken Peplowski, Ehud Asherie, Ed Metz, Joel Forbes, Chuck Redd, Randy Sandke, and John Allred:

And the musicians themselves speak sweetly about the pleasure of attending the party and playing there (Ken, Chuck Redd, Dan Barrett, Bucky):

The superb videos — both music and interview — are the work of David Leonnig, who’s also helped inform me about the Party.

This year’s party will take place May 14-17, at the MCM Eleganté Hotel
in Odessa, Texas and the musicians are:

Piano: Johnny Varro, Ehud Asherie, Rossano Sportiello
Bass: Joel Forbes. Frank Tate, Nicki Parrott (vocals)
Drums: Chuck Redd (vibes), Tony Tedesco, Butch Miles
Trumpet: Ed Polcer, Warren Vache, Randy Sandke
Trombone: Dan Barrett, John Allred
Reeds: Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Allan Vache
Guitar: Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Laub (vocals)
Vocals: Rebecca Kilgore

The West Texas Jazz Party is sponsored in part by:

• The Texas Commission for the Arts
• Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities
• The Rea Charitable Trust

Patron Tickets: $200: Reserved Seating for all performances and Saturday Brunch.

General Admission: Each performance $50 • Brunch $50

For Hotel Reservations, call 432-368-5885 and ask tor the Jazz Rate of $129.00. For Jazz Party or Brunch Reservations, call 432-552-8962. The WTJP now is accepting credit cards or make a check payable to: West Texas Jazz Society • P.O. Box 10832 • Midland, Texas 79702.

It looks as if a good time will be had by all. For the forty-ninth consecutive year!

May your happiness increase!


If you are reading this in the Northeast United States, you might be coming out of a sustained depression caused by several weeks of snow and cold.  It’s all melting, and I feel a thaw in my psyche.  There’s something about seeing the sidewalk that gives me hope.

What better way to celebrate our survival — that we didn’t have to break open the pemmican — than with some free heartfelt jazz coming tomorrow, Monday, March 9, at 7:30 PM, in New York City?

I said free. But you do have to RSVP them. The venue is the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, New York 10023, and the event is being put on by the Balassi Institute.

Here is the Facebook page for the event.

And here are the details:

RSVP is required

Revisit the music of Louis Armstrong and Joe Murányi as interpreted by the cream of today’s trad jazz scene!
Joe Murányi (1928-2012), affectionately called “Hungarian Joe” by his bandleader, the great Louis Armstrong, was not just a traditional jazz clarinetist extraordinaire, but a record producer, activist and jazz writer. Born to Jewish Hungarian parents, his legacy is a testament to the cultural impact of immigrants of Hungary to the United States.

Joe Murányi was legendary for his skills and his kindness, no wonder that an all-star line-up of traditional jazz players has come together to commemorate him. Performing their tribute only once in New York, catch the great Scott Robinson, US Jazz Ambassador, collaborator on two Grammy-winning albums, Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri and Pat O’Leary with Béla Szalóky, standout trombone and trumpet player for the the world renowned Benkó Dixieland Band, one of the several “ambassadors” of Hungarian jazz making a visit to NYC.

The performance is free, seating guaranteed only with RSVP to the Eventbrite page.  (Here is the Eventbrite link.)

You will notice that the band is a version of our beloved EarRegulars, and it is a rare chance to hear them in a concert setting.

I’ll be there, but I take up only one seat — which means there might be room for more of the faithful.

Imagine an interval where the band plays that 1929 pop hit, LIVE FOR TODAY (But Think of Tomorrow).

To think too much of September 2015 would be to rush away the joys of spring and summer to come, but it’s always nice to make plans, to have something rare to look forward to.  So I urge you to make a small space in your thoughts for the second annual Allegheny Jazz Party — taking place September 10-13, at the Inter-Continental Hotel and Conference Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was a very happy audience member (and camera-operator) at last year’s event, which was just like the hallowed Jazz at Chautauqua . . . but even better — under the benignly serious guidance of Nancy Griffith and Nancy Hancock.

The musicians? How about Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Andy Stein, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, the Faux Frenchmen.  Our friend Phil Atteberry will be giving a morning talk on the music of Cole Porter.

For more information, visit the AJS website, or call 216-956-0886. And if you’re like me — an eager early adopter of such things, the Inter-Continental Cleveland Hotel is at 9801 Carnegie Avenue . . . and there is a special rate of $189 per night plus tax.  (It’s a very comfortable hotel, I assure you.)  Call 855-765-8709 and mention the Allegheny Jazz Party or Group Code YON to receive the special rate.

May your happiness increase!



In my deepest jazz self, I hold to what I would call the Condon aesthetic: that nothing beats a group of like-minded musicians assembling for a common purpose — creating swinging lyrical improvisations — on the spot, with no arrangements, nothing more formal than a mutually agreed-upon song, tempo, key, and perhaps someone volunteering to play lead in the first chorus.  After that, the players live utterly in the moment.  Sometimes this freedom makes for collisions, but more often it results in the kind of pleasure one lives for, the moments when the tight collars have been unbuttoned, the painfully fashionable shoes have been kicked off.

Last September, at the Allegheny Jazz Party (debuting with great success in Cleveland, Ohio) these impromptu delights happened many times in the three-day banquet of sounds.  But one session has remained in my mind as a high point of playful unfettered collective improvisation — a trio set led by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor, with two of The Singular Elders, Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano.  The combination of a reed instrument and trombone works beautifully but isn’t often attempted these days.  There were bebop precursors and swing ones, but the tonal ranges of the two instruments are delightfully complementary.  The trio of piano and two horns requires a certain orchestral approach to the piano, although I am sure that Monk or Herbie Nichols would have done splendidly here, too — but Keith is a full band in himself.

With pleasure, then —




Thank you, Messrs. Dan, Bob, and Keith.

And, although it’s only January, the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party is a sure thing for September 10-13, with a delightful lineup (although there is the asterisk that indicates “All programs subject to change”: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Andy Stein, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Faux Frenchmen.  To keep up to date with what’s happening at the AJP, visit here.

May your happiness increase!


Mildred Bailey once sang, “If you miss me, you’ll be missing the Acme Fast Freight.”  I don’t know enough about railroad / steam train mythology to even pretend to interpret the seriousness of that metaphor, but I do know this.

On Thursday, December 5, in Portland, Oregon, a remarkable small jazz happening is going to take place at Classic Pianos: a concert by the peerless singer Rebecca Kilgore, trombone / cornet master / arranger / composer / singer Dan Barrett, and pianist Paolo Alderighi.  

This trio will be performing songs that will appear on their next CD.  Classic Pianos (the space) is an intimate room and a good number of tickets have already been sold.  

If this sounds to some like more JAZZ LIVES shameless sleeve-tugging, you can take it as such if you choose.  But if three of the finest musicians now improvising were going to give a quiet concert . . . and you found out only when it was over, wouldn’t you be annoyed?

So I am trying to save you such irksome moments of kicking yourself (always a nasty business, whether you connect or not) and encourage you, if you live within reach of 3003 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, Oregon 97202, to join in on the pleasure.  From what I have heard, this concert will sell out.  The doors open at 7 PM; the concert begins at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are $15 apiece (less than a CD) and can be purchased online here.

And here is the Facebook page for the event.  And an Event it is.  If I have to explain to JAZZ LIVES readers who Miss Kilgore, Mister Barrett, and Mister Alderighi are . . . some of you have not been taking proper notes!

This version of the Rebecca Kilgore Trio is making a rare Portland appearance, but any appearance by these three inventive musicians is a delight.  Rebecca calls Portland home, but Paolo has traveled from Milan and Dan from southern California for this.  (Me, I have traveled from New York by way of Novato and San Diego but I would not miss this concert.)

Paolo has performed all over the world and is admired by many jazz greats including Ken Peplowski and Bucky Pizzarelli.  He is an astonishing musician, as I have written here.  Dan Barrett has been amazing and reassuring us since the late Seventies — with Benny Goodman, Ruby Braff, Howard Alden, Scott Hamilton, Rosemary Clooney, Joe Bushkin, Buck Clayton and Bobby Short. Rebecca was a wellspring of sweet swinging melody when I first heard her at the end of the last century and she keeps getting finer.  Usually she’s at Carnegie Hall or in Europe: this is a rare chance to catch this trio in a small quiet room, making small-group swing music come alive with love and wit.

For more information, contact Peggie Zackery at Classic Pianos:

Phone: (503) 546-5622 or Email: peggie@classicportland.com

May your happiness increase!


Ken and Dick.  Photograph by Fran Kaufman.

Ken and Dick. Photograph by Fran Kaufman.

I had a great deal of trouble writing this review of the new duo CD by pianist Dick Hyman and clarinetist / saxophonist Ken Peplowski because I didn’t want to take the disc out of the car player.  (So the punchline here is: BUY SEVERAL.)

Years ago, Dick recorded a solo album for Monmouth-Evergreen with the title GENIUS AT PLAY (and a cover image of an orange road-construction sign).  The people at Victoria Records, bless them, decided that GENIUSES AT PLAY wasn’t a good title, so the disc is called simply LIVE AT THE KITANO — a selection of titles created on the spot by Dick and Ken in 2012.

I know that in the swirling maelstrom that I might whimsically call “the jazz marketplace,” a disc such as this has a good deal of competition.  On the surface, it doesn’t “push the envelope”; it doesn’t “transcend old frontiers”; it isn’t “cutting edge.”

But those terms, so beloved of the most extreme publicists, are irrelevant here, because what Dick and Ken do is explore, improvise, and play, all beautifully. They are masters of “tonation and phrasing,” which is to say that they play melodic lines with warmth, intelligence, and humor — they know, for instance, how to pace out the notes of BLUE ROOM so that the upward leaps of the melody sound wistful rather than mechanical.  To make an instrument speak and sing is not easy, but they do it in ways that amaze other players.

And when they get together in duet, magic results: a playful conversation that both fits and expands the mood of the song without tricks or gimmicks.  I keep returning to the idea of PLAY — a word that means more than the logo on top of a button on a digital answering machine — for Hyman and Peplowski, because they are brave, carefree, and wise in their joyous romps or musical experiments.  No atonality, no showing-off-for-its-own-sake, but the sweet assurance of wise players who know what they can do in the service of Song.  And they are clearly inspired by one another: Hyman has always been a gentle sparkplug, someone who sweetly and gently encourages exploring, and Peplowski fears nothing.  Even critics who keep insisting that he sounds like Benny.


Ken plays tenor on WIND and LOVER — most beautifully, I might add. And although the session was recorded live in a room with people and glasses, the occasional rustles aren’t distracting — rather, they enhance.

The disc is issued by Victoria Records; it’s VC 4393, and it’s a masterpiece. Better yet, it’s deeply moving music and great fun. All at the same time.

In doing research for this blogpost, I also found a treasure previously unknown (by me): E PLURIBUS DUO, the predecessor Hyman-Peplowski CD primarily devoted to songs composed by jazz musicians: GODCHILD, ANOUMAN, THE RED DOOR, WALTZ FOR DEBBY, LITTLE DOGS, TWOSOME, VIGNATTE, OH LOOK AT ME NOW, THE CUP-BEARERS, SEGMENT, I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (two versions), DREAMS, TWO-PLAY FREE-PLAY.  It’s Victoria Records VC 4379.

For more information, visit Victoria Records, Dick Hyman, or Ken Peplowski.

May your happiness increase!



Dick Hyman not only makes beautiful surprising music on his own — as he has for sixty years — but he attracts the best musicians in surprising combinations.  Here are two recent pairings that couldn’t be better.


One CD joins Dick and the singer Heather Masse for a program of introspective ballads — with one surprise, a frisky reading of I’M GONNA LOCK MY HEART with Heather becoming her own cross between Mae Questel and Fats Waller.  Masse is a deep-voiced marvel, someone truly in touch with the songs — and what songs!  BEWITCHED / LULLABY OF BIRDLAND / SINCE I FELL FOR YOU / OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY / SEPTEMBER SONG / LOST IN THE STARS / LOVE FOR SALE / IF I CALLED YOU / I GOT IT BAD AND THAT AIN’T GOOD / A FLOWER IS A LOVESOME THING / MORNING DRINKER / I’M GONNA LOCK MY HEART (AND THROW AWAY THE KEY).  Hyman is, as ever, the most brilliant of piano accompanists.

You can obtain the CD here from Red House Records or here from Dick’s site.

Here’s Heather from the January 29, 2011 PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION — with a tender reading of the Ralph Rainger – Leo Robin JUNE IN JANUARY:


The second disc is more unusual but exceedingly beautiful — a series of duets (plus a friend or two) for Dick and his daughter, Judy, a fine fiddler and composer — who is responsible for the lovely waltzes on the disc.  It’s not always what you’d expect — melancholy in ways that mix Brahms and folk song — but it is music that lingers in the memory for a long time.  I kept returning to the CD, and there’s no greater tribute.

Here’s the  evocative RALPH’S WATCH:

And SAVE A THOUGHT (in a very beautifully done film by Becky Lane):

And should any rigorous readers worry that octogenarian Hyman has “left jazz piano behind,” his two nights earlier in 2013 at the Kitano (Park Avenue and 38th Street, New York City) in duet with Ken Peplowski were evidence to the contrary.  I wasn’t there, but heard ecstatic comments from a few people who were there — SRO, by the way — and the duo has recorded another CD, to be released in the near future.  

Dick’s stature as a jazz pianist hasn’t been in doubt since the late Forties . . . and neither has his reputation as the great explicator of the art form.  With the help of the much-missed Mat Domber of Arbors Records, Dick created a multiple CD / DVD set, A CENTURY OF JAZZ PIANO.  


A new book and DVD combination, published by Hal Leonard, DICK HYMAN’S CENTURY OF JAZZ PIANO — TRANSCRIBED! is a welcome extension of that first impulse.  With clear examples in a large-scale readable format, the gifted or diligent player can follow Dick from the cakewalk to McCoy Tyner in 157 pages.  Now, get to work!

Here’s the Master, himself, doing what he does so beautifully — inventing variations on I CAN’T GET STARTED and I GOT PLENTY OF NUTTIN’ for almost fourteen minutes.  Recorded in January 2010 at the second Arbors Jazz Party:

May your happiness increase!