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Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski: Old Songs, New Spins

Howard Alden and Ken Peplowski

On Pow-Wow, their new Arbors Records project, guitarist Howard Alden and tenor saxophonist-clarinetist Ken Peplowski rekindle the lively, interactive chemistry they established on two out-of-print duet outings, 1992’s Concord Duo Series, Vol. 3 and 1994’s Encore! Live at Centre Concord. With Alden filling in deep basslines on the low A of his seven-string Benedetto guitar while also providing rich chordal voicings and engaging in bristling hornlike single note unisons with Peplowski, the two partners exhibit a rare, near telepathic rapport on a wide stylistic range of tunes, from pre-Dixieland (1911’s “Panama”) to bop (a spirited romp through Bud Powell’s chops-busting “Tempus Fugit”) to jazz impressionism (Bill Evans’ graceful waltz “Very Early”) to bossa nova (Joe Puma’s “Bossango”), along with some seldom-heard gems from the Great American Songbook (Cole Porter’s “Dream Dancing” and the Comden-Green-Leonard Bernstein number “Lucky to Be Me,” from the 1945 musical On the Town).

Throw in an obscure Ellington tune (the Monk-ish “Who Knows” from his 1953 trio recording, Piano Reflections), an early Billie Holiday number (1936’s “Did I Remember?”), a gorgeous Strayhorn ballad (“After All”) and a popular Sammy Cahn tune from the ’50s (“The Things We Did Last Summer”), along with Alden’s solo guitar reading of a 1922 tune by pianist-composer and Bix Beiderbecke favorite Eastwood Lane (“The Land of the Loons”), and you’ve got a potent slice of Americana that spans the ragtime era to bebop and beyond.

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