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Lost In the Stars

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Album Review

Lost in the Stars sounds like the title of a romantic mood music album, and in fact, parts of this 2001 session are romantic and sentimental. But other parts are up-tempo, exuberant, and hard-swinging. So listeners shouldn't make too much of the album's title; Ken Peplowski, true to form, provides yet another well-rounded swing-to-bop effort that ranges from the lyrical to the exhilarating. Like other Peplowski releases, Lost in the Stars has one foot in small-group swing and the other in early bebop — an approach that recalls the mid-'40s, when there were a lot of players who were right at that swing/bop border. They were being influenced by the innovations of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Dizzy Gillespie, but they weren't 100 percent bop and hadn't forgotten about swing. On Lost in the Stars, Peplowski oversees a rhythm section that includes pianist Ben Aranov, bassist Greg Cohen, and drummer Lewis Nash — and these players serve Peplowski well whether he is on tenor sax or clarinet. Although not groundbreaking, this German release has its share of surprises. Aranov and Cohen do some writing — Lost in the Stars isn't just an album of overdone warhorses — and Peplowski unearths a few overlooked gems, including "Ballad for Very Tired and Very Sad Lotus Eaters" (a little known Billy Strayhorn piece from the '50s). "My Ship" certainly falls into the warhorse category — some would argue that as great as the song is, the jazz world needs to give it a rest in the 21st century. But Peplowski's version of "My Ship" is so gorgeous and deliciously lyrical that one can easily cut him some slack, and he is equally expressive on "Good Morning Heartache." Lost in the Stars falls short of essential, but even so, it is a solid and rewarding addition to Peplowski's catalog.

Lost In the Stars, Ken Peplowski Quartet
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