Internationally-acclaimed master saxophonists team up to present all of the music from the 1968 Pepper Adams & Zoot Sims album, “Encounter!,” a rare studio pairing of the two jazz icons! Featuring Theron Brown, Dave Morgan, Zaire Darden.
Legendary jazz saxophonists, Ken Peplowski (tenor sax), and Gary Smulyan (baritone sax), have always loved the 1968 Pepper Adams/Zoot Sims record, “Encounter!,” on Prestige Records, featuring Tommy Flanagan, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones. “It contains some of the most heated, interesting playing by both Zoot and Pepper and it’s a bit of a one-off by them, especially Zoot, who usually did more “inside” recordings,” says Peplowski.
After a conversation between Peplowski & Smulyan where they discovered their mutual admiration of this album, the two decided to play all the music from this project in their own way, with the addition of some of their own songs into the mix – along with tunes by Thad Jones, Duke Ellington, Joe Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Lee Adams, Charles Strouse, and more from Zoot Sims & Pepper Adams – for a very special and not-to-be-missed program right here at BLU Jazz+! Joining the band are the incredible talents of Ohio’s very own Theron Brown (piano), Dave Morgan (bass), and Zaire Darden (drums).
Peplowski & Smulyan, whom have collectively performed with the likes of jazz luminaries Ray Charles, Chet Baker, Clark Terry, Mel Torme, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Byrd, Peggy Lee, Dizzy Gillespie, George Shearing, Stan Getz, Madonna, Hank Jones, Chick Corea, Rosemary Clooney, Tito Puente, Tom Harrell, James Moody, Cedar Walton, Steve Allen, Bill Charlap, Woody Allen, B.B. King, & Diana Ross (to name a few) swing into Akron for a one-night-only concert event!
Get your tickets today for these exciting and hard-swinging shows featuring two jazz titans of the saxophone!
ABOUT KEN PEPLOWSKI
“When you grow up in Cleveland, Ohio, playing in a Polish polka band, you learn to think fast on your feet”, says Ken Peplowski, who played his first pro engagement when he was still in elementary school. “From my first time performing in public, I knew I wanted to play music for a living.”
Ken, and his trumpet-playing brother Ted, made many local radio and TV appearances and played for Polish dances and weddings virtually every weekend all through high-school. “That’s where I learned to improvise, ‘fake’ songs, learn about chord changes, etc.- it’s exactly like learning to swim by being thrown into the water!”
By the time Ken was in his early teens, he was experimenting with jazz by playing in the school “stage” bands, and also by jamming with many of the local jazz musicians. “By the time I hit high school, I was teaching at the local music store, playing in our family band, and playing jazz gigs around town while still getting up early every day for school.”
After a year of college, Ken joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow. “Buddy heard me with my quartet at a Cleveland jazz festival along with Teddy Wilson’s trio and the Dorsey band, and made an offer right then and there for me to not only play lead alto, but to have a feature spot on the clarinet with the rhythm section. It was a great ‘road-school’ – we learned the discipline that goes with playing one-nighters every day for 48 weeks out of the year, and Buddy was a great, very generous bandleader.”
Peplowski met Sonny Stitt while on the road with the Dorsey band, and studied with him. “He was, and is, an inspiration to all of of us who make a living ‘on the road’ – I’ve never heard anybody play with such amazing consistency as Sonny, through all kinds of settings.”
In 1980, Ken moved to New York City,and was soon playing in all kinds of settings, from Dixieland to avant-garde jazz. “Everything’s a learning experience in jazz music – there’s always an element of the unpredictable.” In 1984, Benny Goodman came out of retirement and put together a new band, hiring Ken on tenor saxophone.
Peplowski signed with Concord Records, under the tutelage of Carl Jefferson, the founder and president, and recorded close to 20 albums as a leader, including “The Natural Touch” in 1992 which won Best Jazz Record of the Year by the Prises Deutschen Schallplatten Kritiken, and “The Other Portrait”, recorded in Sophia Bulgaria with the symphony orchestra and highlighting Ken’s classical side. He also recorded two records on the Nagel Heyer label,”Lost In The Stars” and “Easy To Remember”, the latter of which features Bobby Short on his last recording. “I loved Bobby Short’s approach to the American songbook, and we’d talked about doing a record together for a while – I’m glad we got this one ‘in the can.’
“Mr. Peplowski sounds the way (Benny) Goodman might if he had kept evolving, kept on listening to new music, kept refining his sound, polishing his craft, and expanding his musical purview into the 21st century…”
– THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
“What’s in the future? “Who knows? I love all kinds of music, andI’d like to find more oppurtunities to bridge the gaps between different musical styles – I consider myself an interpreter of material – if something interests me, I try to put my own spin on it, without thinking or worrying about playing in any particular style. Basically, I like a challenge, I’m a sucker for a good melody, and I love playing for audiences, big or small.”
And he has certainly achieved these goals, be it in small clubs, the Hollywood Bowl (where he played a sold-out concert), headlining in Las Vegas, the Newport Jazz Festival, pops concerts, European festivals and clubs, or at home in NYC, doing everything from playing on the soundtracks to Woody Allen movies, guest soloing on records (his more interesting recent ones were Marianne Faithfull and Cuban vocalist Isaac Delgado) to taking on the role of music director for interactive French and Italian cookbooks (“Menus And Music”).
The litany of musicians Ken has collaborated with includes: Mel Torme, Leon Redbone, Charlie Byrd, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Madonna, Hank Jones, Dave Frishberg, Rosemary Clooney, Tom Harrell, James Moody, Cedar Walton, Houston Person, Steve Allen, Bill Charlap, Woody Allen, Marianne Faithfull, Isaac Delgado & Erich Kunzel. (“Although not necessarily in that order,” says Ken).
Peplowski also does many workshops for students of all ages- “My goal is to get the students to learn how to teach themselves, and to learn how to bring out their own best qualities; after all, jazz is about individuality-first you learn the rules, then you break them. I would like to think of myself as a lifelong student!”
Ken Peplowski is a Buffet-Crampon artist, and plays the R-13 clarinet,with a Portnoy mouthpiece and Van Doren German-cut reeds. He also plays a Yamaha tenor sax and a Berg Larsen mouthpiece.
Ken Peplowski has recorded approximately 50 CDs as a soloist, and close to 400 as a sideman – some of the artists he’s performed/recorded with include Charlie Byrd, Mel Torme, Rosemary Clooney, Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops, Hank Jones, Peggy Lee, Bill Charlap, Woody Allen, Benny Goodman, and Madonna. He travels at least half of every year, playing clubs, concert halls, colleges, and pops concerts. He has headlined the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note, and Dizzy’s Club amongst many other venues. Ken’s last two CDs on the Capri label, “Noir Blue” and “In Search Of” were released to great critical acclaim and airplay. He has recorded music as diverse as Italian folk songs, avant-garde jazz, pop, and classical music (he recorded the Darius Milhaud Clarinet Concerto with an orchestra in Sofia, Bulgaria). His latest CD is “Maybe September”(Capri Records), recorded with Ted Rosenthal, Martin Wind and Matt Wilson direct to two track and live in the studio. Ken was the musical director of the Oregon Festival Of American Music (OFAM) for eight years, and is a longtime performer/consultant to The Jazz Cruise, where he was elected into the Jazz Cruise Hall Of Fame in 2013. He resides in New York City with his wife, dog, and whatever children happen to be passing through. “Mr. Peplowski sounds the way (Benny) Goodman might if he had kept evolving, kept on listening to new music, kept refining his sound, polishing his craft, and expanding his musical purview into the 21st century.” – Will Friedwald in The Wall Street Journal, December 2012
In 2014, Ken was the recipient of the Sarasota Jazz Festival’s “Satchmo” award, given to him for his “unique and enduring contribution to the living history of jazz”; in March, Ken was also the guest of honor at a “Highlights In Jazz” concert in NYC saluting him for “his matchless musical achievements”.
ABOUT GARY SMULYAN
Bartione saxophonist Gary Smulyan was born April 4, 1956, in Bethpage, New York. The gifted multi-in strumentalist started his music career by first learning alto saxophone during his teenage years on Long Island. Today he is critically acclaimed across-the-board and recognized as a major voice on the baritone saxophone. His playing is marked by an aggressive rhythmic sense, an intelligent and creative harmonic approach – and perhaps most importantly – a strong and incisive wit.
While still in high school, he had the chance to sit in with major jazz artists such as legendary trumpeter Chet Baker, saxophonist Lee Konitz, trombonist Jim my Knepper and violinist Ray Nance.
After graduating high school he attended SUNY-Postsdam and Hofstra University before he joined Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd in 1978. It was a remarkable collection of young musicians who ultimately would find themselves in the forefront of present-day jazz. Joining Smulyan in the band were saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer John Riley, who would eventually become a fixture in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
In 1980, unlike many of his colleagues and peers Smulyan didn’t have to go very far to move into New York City proper where he became part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra then under the direction of Bob Brookmeyer, tonight’s commis sioned artist, composer and guest conductor. Smulyan also found work with other important large ensembles including the Mingus Epitaph Band and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
“Smulyan’s tone seems to get bigger and his ideas more expansive from album to album…”
– JAZZTIMES MAGAZINE
Gradually establishing himself the talented Smulyan was asked to share the stage and the recording studio with a stunning potpourri of luminaries including: trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Stan Getz, pianist Chick Corea, timbales king Tito Puente, and R&B/Blues and soul icons Ray Charles, B.B. King and Diana Ross.
Smulyan, in addition to performing and recording in support of a myriad of people began to accumulate a discogra phy as a leader. At this point in his career he has at least 10 recordings out under his own name. Meanwhile he continues to play with wide variety of artists – each presenting him with an opportunity to fully express himself. In addition to his work on Monday nights with the Van guard Jazz Orchestra, Smulyan remains close with Lovano, working with him in his nine-piece Nonet; then there is the exhilarating and liberating Dave HoJland Octet and the seminal bassist’s Big Band. Beyond that, Smulyan has also enjoyed stints in the cooperative Three Baritone Saxophone Band as well as working with powerhouse tenor saxophonist George Coleman in his octet and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band that, similar to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, is comprised of some of the world’s best players.
No matter who he is performing with – or whether he is leading his own band at the time – Smulyan brings to the stage the spirit, style and savvy of a deep toned master of bebop. “Gary Smulyan’s lineage comes more from musicians like Cecil Payne, Leo Parker, Pepper Adams, Serge Chaloff and Nick Brignola – the few baritonists that dared to master the tricky, chromatic music known as bebop,” wrote All About Jazz’s Francis Lo Kee in a review. “Indeed…Smulyan is fluent in the language.” He was heavily influenced by Adams who was known as “The Knife” for his hearty tone and the energy of his rhythmic playing style. Smulyan’s Homage was recorded following Adams’ death, and every track on the recording, released in 1994, is written by Adams. Similarly, Smulyan organized the Three Baritones Band, which places him in the company of two of his seniors – Ronnie Cuber and Nick Brignola. The group released Plays Mulligan in 1998, the date serving as a tribute to the late Gerry Mulligan, one of the foremost baritone saxo phonists in jazz history and a mentor for many artists, including Smulyan. “Smulyan’s tone seems to get bigger and his ideas more expansive from album to album,” wrote long-time critic Doug Ramsey in Jazz Times magazine. In 1995, WBGO, the all-jazz, Newark, N.J.-based NPR station voted Smulyan’s Saxophone Mosaic as one of the best 25 CDs of 1995; two years later the Boston Globe selected the baritone saxophonist’s Gary Smulyan with Strings as one of the 10 best jazz CDs of 1997.
Always in search of new ideas, in 2008 Smulyan released High Noon – The Jazz Soul of Frankie Laine; it is a nine-piece band tribute to the prolific 1940s and 1950s pop singer Frankie Laine who died in 2007 at age 93. “This is the kind of album whose melodies linger after the session’s over,” wrote another long-time critic, Owen Cordle of Charlotte News and Observer.