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Johnny Varro featuring Ken Peplowski: Two Legends of Jazz

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There are two qualities you can always expect from Arbors’ stable of artists: they unfailingly display compatibility and camaraderie, particularly in the front line. Take this session recorded a couple of years ago featuring two highly compatible comrades: pianist Johnny Varro and clarinetist Ken Peplowski. A generation separates them — Varro was born in 1930; Peplowski in ’59 — but only mathematically. They’re much closer idiomatically. And there is so much palpable respect on display, you can hear each one compromising stylistically until they seem to meet somewhere, ca. 1945. It’s fascinating and satisfying.

“Menina Flor,” a Luiz Bonfa bossa that deserves to be more widely heard, is routinely put through its paces for the opening chorus, followed by Peplowski’s solo, then Varro’s. But the fourth chorus is a stunner. Check your time code; at 3:33, with Varro about to begin chorus #4, Peplowski returns to the front line and they embark on a non-stop improvisation, simultaneously. Don’t think you’re being deprived of the clarity of each line; what you are being treated to is Counterpoint-101, with Johnny and Ken skillfully staying out of each other’s way as the flood of sixteenth notes provides such sweet, contrapuntal thunder.

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