Ken Peplowski – In Search Of…

It’s occurred to me that I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz with a hopeful heart. I’m hopeful that this will move me, maybe unlock some deep passage in my soul that will help me understand life on a fuller level. That’s nearly happened a pile of times, as though some great vortex in the centre of the universe has decided to let me in on some secret. A little too trippy? Maybe.

Or maybe my hopeful heart is common. We’re all striving for connections, after all, and we’re all in search of that moving moment when we finally get it. All the smoke and mirrors vanish. We’ve got it all figured out, clarity is our friend and whatever happens next is okay. Those moments are fleeting. Shit, if they were constant we’d all probably enjoy life. Can’t have that.

So what is reedman Ken Peplowski in search of on his new record. In Search Of… finds him playing with pianist Shelly Berg, drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist Tom Kennedy with the sort of force and heart that reveals a bigger purpose. Truth be told, dude’s a monster on this disc. I don’t mean that in the sense that he blasts through walls or wields a cannon like Adam Schroeder. Peplowski is more surgical, less blunt.

Nah, what I mean is that this cat is following up 2010’s Noir Blue with something that has teeth. The first session on the album was recorded in three and a half hours, after all. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do very much in that amount of time. I sure as hell can’t unlock that deep passage in my soul that will help me understand life on a, say, fuller level.

In Search Of… kicks off with the blistering session and tacks on a trio of tunes taken from a self-produced recording Peplowski put out in 2007. Call it the second session of the record.

Right out of the box, Ken walks the line. “The Thespian” is suitably dramatic. Flourishes of ivory flick through, while the reedman digs in on clarinet with a sort of smoothness rarely heard. Those passages are opening and the players know just the right second to kick it up and go for a trot.

My favourite is the groovy “Falsa Baiana,” a downright smoking cut that stretches out Peplowski’s tenor sax beyond its logical limits. There’s a slammin’ piano solo to contend with and Hamilton’s fills are something to sit back and take in.

Peplowski, born in Cleveland, performed every weekend when he was a kid. The levels may have improved over the years, but the exuberance and excitement has remained. In Search Of… did more than satisfy this listener; it cranked open the doors, lit a fire under my hopeful heart and sent me home dancing.

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