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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Arbors Jazz ARCD 19340




1. Pow Wow
2. Dream Dancing
3. Did I Remember?
4. Very Early
5. Who Knows
6. After All
7. Bossango
8. I See Your Face Before Me
9. Tempus Fugit
10. The Land of the Loon
11. The Things We Did Last Summer
12. Panama
13. Lucky To Be Me
Howard Alden - Guitar
Ken Peplowski - Tenor sax, clarinet

Jazz is listening music, par excellence. Whether they are playing together in small groups or big bands, jazz musicians need to listen and react to one another, as that interplay is invariably an essential ingredient for good jazz. Jazz doesn't just involve playing notes printed on a page - it necessitates creative collaboration with other musicians. Even a jazzman playing entirely on his own has to listen to himself rather than just spinning out a series of notes.

This truth is perhaps most evident in a duo - one of the most concentrated forms of jazz, where both musicians have to be constantly aware of what their colleague is doing. That is certainly the case with this duo of guitarist Howard Alden and reedman Ken Peplowski. Howard Alden continually changes his style to suit what Peplowski is playing, and vice versa. In fact you can hear Howard switching between soloing, providing rhythm or bass lines, and often playing in counterpoint with Ken. The result is a genuine meeting of two fine musical minds, whose technique is sufficiently secure for them to achieve whatever they set out to do. Their duets are sometimes reminiscent of the "chamber jazz" by such groups as the Jimmy Giuffre Trio, where sax or clarinet worked in perfect harmony with guitar.

Despite the apparent limitations of such a two-man band, there is plenty of variety. Peplowski switches easily between tenor sax and clarinet, producing a warm tone on both instruments. And although the repertoire includes several jazz standards, the programme is far from hackneyed. The variety of material is illustrated by Who Knows, a neglected Duke Ellington tune, and The Land of the Loon, a little-known composition by Eastwood Lane which Howard plays entirely on his own. Ken responds by playing I See Your Face Before Me unaccompanied: a hard task for a clarinettist, but he pulls it off. The duo even plays Panama, an old trad warhorse with several different sections, which you can feel the two players revelling in. Alden supplies the guitar equivalent of a stride piano behind Peplowski's clarinet.

The opening title-track (like the later Bossango) was composed by guitarist Joe Puma and is an unusual variant on Cherokee, with Howard and Ken playing in unison, swapping fours and maintaining a driving swing all the while. But every track has its own pleasures. Savour the delicacy of Ken's clarinet in Billy Strayhorn's After All; the duo's facility in negotiating the twists and turns of Bud Powell's Tempus Fugit; and the relaxed but thoughtful closing performance of Lucky To Be Me. This album is a delight from start to finish.

Tony Augarde

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