Ken Peplowski Quintet

Live at Ambassador Auditorium

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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden

Ken Peplowski led a fine quintet during this 1994 concert at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena; the clarinetist and tenor saxophonist is joined by some of his favorite collaborators: guitarist Howard Alden, pianist Ben Aronov, bassist Murray Wall, and drummer Tom Melito. Peplowski starts off on his big-toned tenor by leading a simmering take of "Birk's Works." He and Alden wrote a complex chart based on the chord changes to "Crazy Rhythm," and although he jokes that they hadn't successfully negotiated the chart during rehearsals, they sail through this live version without a net on stage as both men take dazzling solos. Veteran trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, nearing the end of a long and rewarding career, guests on several numbers, including an especially bittersweet rendition of "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You," as he trades solos on muted trumpet with the leader, plus a spirited take of "The Best Things in Life Are Free" and the swinging "Exactly Like You," where he's finally heard on open horn. The duo chemistry between Peplowski and Alden is rekindled during the introduction to "At Long Last Love" as they interweave their lines throughout this masterful performance, with the leader now on clarinet. "I Brung You Finjans for Your Zarf," a song written by Tal Farlow and Red Norvo, which also has a humorous narrative introduction by Peplowski, showcases his incredible flights of improvisation; Alden and Wall also add impressive solos. A video of this concert was also issued simultaneously by Concord; the high level of musicianship of everyone involved and the diverse music within the program add to its considerable appeal.

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