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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Bugle Call Rag, Don't Be That Way*, Ballad in Blue, Avalon, Ridin' High, Restless, Blue Room, Stealin' Apples, Moonglow, King Porter Stomp*, Hunkadola, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Stompin' at the Savoy, Sing Sing Sing*, Goodbye*
BBC Big Band with Ken Peplowski, *cond. Barry Forgie
Recorded at BBC Pebble Mill, Birmingham, 24-25.01.2001
CHANDOS CHAN 9927 [65.26]

The idea of presenting a selection of 15 items written for or associated with Benny Goodman is a fine one, and there is a wide range of styles from the tender Ballad in Blue to the scintillating Avalon. In many ways the performers rise to their finest in the two closing items, the large-scale Sing, Sing, Sing and the touching Goodbye. However, Ken Peplowski is a mellower-toned clarinettist than Goodman and there is a slightly cultured feel to the whole product. This will give much pleasure but it is hardly shot through with the thrill of new pathfinding which informed the originals. The vague similarity between the opening of Goodbye and Brahms's Lullaby seems to set the tone for a performance which certainly does not lack poetry but evidently wishes to revisit the pungent '30s in a vein of nostalgic tranquillity.

In many ways, I have the idea that 78 collectors back in the '30s got more out of this music. CDs have been a wonderful boon for classical music where whole symphonies and entire acts of operas can be heard at one stretch. But can they reproduce the thrill the listeners of those days got out of buying these pieces two at a time and wearing them through before their favourite artist brought out another pair?

Benny Goodman made history. Ken Peplowski is a fabulously proficient clarinettist, no doubt about that, but if he wants to enter history too, how about making his next disc a tribute to himself?

Christopher Howell




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