Ken Peplowski

Russell Davies, BBC2 August 2013, Ken Peplowski “Ken Peplowski has been arguably the most famous living jazz clarinetist.” “You learn to think fast and your feet when you grow up playing in a Polish band,” says Ken Peplowski. He was in elementary school when he played his first professional engagement. “From the first time I performed in public, it was clear that I wanted to be a musician for a living.” Ken and Ted Peplowski, his trumpet-playing brother, played at many local radio and television stations and were present at almost every Polish wedding and dance. “That’s where i learned to improvise and ‘fake songs’, how to chord changes, etc. – it’s just like learning to swim by being thrown in the water!” Ken was only a teenager when he began playing jazz in school’s “stage” bands as well as jamming with local jazz musicians. “By the age of high school, I was teaching in the local music shop, playing in my family band, and playing at jazz gigs around the town while still getting up every morning for school.” Ken joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, under the direction Buddy Morrow. Buddy saw me playing with my quartet at a Cleveland Jazz Festival with Teddy Wilson’s trio, the Dorsey Band, and offered me a spot on the clarinet and a feature spot with the rhythm section. It was a wonderful ‘road-school’. We learned the discipline of playing one-nighters every night for 48 weeks. Buddy was a great and very generous bandleader. “He was and still is an inspiration to us all who make a living on the road – I’ve never seen anyone play with such incredible consistency as Sonny through all sorts of settings. Ken soon moved to New York City in 1980. He was playing in many different settings, including Dixieland and avant-garde jazz. “Everything is a learning experience in jazz music — there’s always an element that’s unpredictable.” Benny Goodman, who was retiring at the time, hired Ken to play tenor saxophone. Under the guidance of Carl Jefferson, the founder, Peplowski signed to Concord Records. He recorded nearly 20 albums as a leader. This included “The Natural Touch”, which was awarded Best Jazz Record of the year by the Prises Deutschen Schallplatten Kritiken. “The Other Portrait”, which was recorded in Sophia Bulgaria with the orchestra, which highlights Ken’s classical side. Two records were also released by Nagel Heyer: “Lost In The Stars”, and “Easy To Remember”, which featured Bobby Short. “I loved Bobby Short’s approach to American songbook and we had talked about doing a recording together for a while. “What’s the future?” “Who knows? “Who knows? “I like a challenge. I love a good melody. And I love playing for people, big and small.” Ken has done a lot of things, including guest soloing on records and playing on soundtracks to Woody Allen movies. He also took on the role as music director for interactive French, Italian and Italian cookbooks (“Menus and Music”) Ken has worked with a variety of musicians, including Mel Torme (Leon Redbone), Charlie Byrd and George Shearing, Peggy Lee. George Shearing, Rosemary Clooney. Rosemary Clooney. Rosemary Clooney. Rosemary Clooney. Rosemary Clooney. Rosemary Clooney, Tom Harrell. Cedar Walton. Houston Person. Steve Allen. Bill Charlap. Woody Allen. Marianne Faithfull. Isaac Delgado.

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