CD REVIEW: Ken Peplowski and Alan Barnes - At the Watermill

Ken Peplowski and Alan Barnes - At the Watermill
(Woodville Records WVCD143, review by Mark McKergow)

The third CD encounter between reed specialists Ken Peplowski and Alan Barnes provides a great variety of top-class swinging jazz numbers with an excellent rhythm section. No surprises there then.

The surprises and delights come in the choice of material, which is varied and fresh. The opening Tippin’ (Horace Silver) gives a clear indication of what is to come, with Barnes’ baritone leading out, followed by a Dave Green double bass solo and Peplowski’s fluid clarinet rounding things up. Barnes does the rounds of his reed instrument collection, appearing on clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor and alto saxophones across the album, while Peplowski limits himself to clarinet and tenor sax (perhaps due to airline baggage restrictions?).

There is a great variety of music here. On the Latin side, Luiz Floriano Bonfá’s rolling Menina Flor is another baritone/clarinet feature that shows the feel of Steve Brown’s drumming, and Antonia Carlos Jobim’s Luiza makes a delightful clarinet duo ballad. The band romps through Junior Mance’s Jubilation, with a fine piano turn from John Pearce before Barnes shows off his flowing alto style. This number is nicely rootsy, as is Al Cohn’s rarely-heard Jazz Line Blues. The one ‘standard’ standard, Perdido, is given a nicely fancy duo head arrangement with much swapping of lines between the horns. The album closes with an extended slow Pee Wee Russell blues, which is very nice coming down at the end of the session.

The session was actually recorded some time ago (2010) at the Watermill jazz club in Dorking (as the title suggests). There is no audience in evidence, so I suspect that the recording was not made at an actual gig. Andrew Cleyndert’s recording sounds nicely ‘live’, not as close miked as the previous Peplowski/Barnes releases. The rhythm section – Scott Hamilton’s regular support at his Pizza Express residencies – provide the expected seamless backdrop to the virtuoso reed performances. If you like this sort of thing, then you will like it – a lot.

LINK: Review of Barnes / Peplowski live in Henley-on-Thames in 2015

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