Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

September 21, 2013

Goodman tribute opens TEF season

THOMASVILLE — Get ready to swing when Thomasville Entertainment Foundation presents “A 75th Anniversary Tribute to Benny Goodman and his famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.”

TEF will present this season-opening concert Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. in the Thomasville Center for the Arts auditorium.

Clarinet virtuoso Ken Peplowski, an alumnus of the Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, will be joined by vocalist Patty Barkas and the Capitol Center Jazz Orchestra in recreating the world’s most famous jazz concert, a ground-breaking event that brought the big band sound to a mainstream audience. That performance introduced listeners to such timeless jazz classics such as “Don’t Be That Way,” “Avalon,” and “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and featured great jazz musicians such as Gene Krupa and Harry James. “This music is happy music,” says Clayton “Skip” Poole, music director for the tribute concert. “It makes people tap their feet, snap their fingers, jump up and dance.”

Swing endures because it appeals to all generations, Poole says, evoking nostalgia in older audiences and euphoria in the young who become devoted fans. “One of my great satisfactions is seeing younger folks hearing this music for the first time at a live performance and looking like kids discovering a candy store.”

According to Poole, a YouTube video of Benny Goodman performing “Sing, Sing, Sing” has one of the highest ratios of “likes” to “dislikes” and generates comments such as “I’m a metalhead, but I love this music!”

Assuming the role of Goodman, the “King of Swing,” in the tribute is Ken Peplowski, who performed on the TEF series in 1992 and 2006 and is regarded as one of the premier clarinetists in the world of jazz. The New York Times described his performance as “Goodman straight up, with a twist of lightning.”

Peplowski played with Goodman’s orchestra from 1984, when the famous bandleader emerged from retirement, until Goodman's death in 1986. He remembers Goodman as “one of the toughest bandleaders” he’d ever worked for, but one who expected—and received—sublime performances from his hard-working musicians.

Goodman’s original arrangements from the 1930s and 40s—not transcriptions—will be used by the musicians during the tribute performance, courtesy of the Benny Goodman Estate and the Yale University Music Library.

Like Goodman, Peplowski took up the clarinet at a young age, playing his first professional gig while still in elementary school. “When you grow up in Cleveland playing in a Polish polka band, you learn to think on your feet,” Peplowski says in his online biography.

As a teenager, Peplowski discovered jazz and after a year in college, he was hired to play with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under Buddy Morrow. “It was a great road school,” he recalls. “We learned the discipline that goes with playing one-nighters every day for 48 weeks out of the year.”

By 1980, Ken had moved to New York, where he experimented with jazz in all its forms, from Dixieland to the avant-garde. Four years later, he was hired to play tenor saxophone in Goodman's band.  

The musicians regarded the legendary bandleader with awe, Peplowski recalled in an interview with Jesse Cloninger earlier this year. “He had a real presence to him. I’ve met very few people that had that kind of magnetism: Sinatra had it, maybe Ella Fitzgerald, but very few.”

Goodman had a reputation as a tough leader who didn’t mince words, but his primary focus was always on the music, Ken says. Only after the bandleader’s sudden death did Peplowski learn that Goodman had approached a record company about signing the young musician to his first recording contract, a touching gesture from a stern boss.

To date, Peplowski has recorded 50 albums as a soloist and some 400 as a sideman. His 1992 effort, “The Natural Touch,” won the Best Jazz Record of the Year by the Prises Der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritiken. He continually explores a wide variety of musical genres, such as Italian folk songs, classical, pop and experimental jazz. His collaborations cover the musical map, including talents such as Mel Tormé, Leon Redbone, Rosemary Clooney, Madonna, Peggy Lee, Woody Allen and Marianne Faithfull.  

“Mr. Peplowski sounds the way Goodman might if he had kept evolving… into the 21st century,” wrote Will Friedwald in The Wall Street Journal last December.  

Peplowski is the current musical director of the Oregon Festival of American Music and is a longtime performer/consultant to The Jazz Cruise, where he was placed in The Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame this year.

Backing the clarinetist are 15 premier jazz musicians known as the Capitol Center Jazz Orchestra. The group has previously performed with the Buddy Rich Orchestra, Stan Kenton and Artie Shaw. Boston-based vocalist Patty Barkas appears on six CDs, and has been called “striking” and “riveting” by The Boston Globe.

Tickets for this concert are on sale now at $35 for adults and $15 for students. Phone the box office at 229-226-7404 or go to the website at www.TEFconcerts. com. Remaining concerts in this series are David Finckel and Wu Han, piano-cello duo, on Oct. 22; pianist Jon Nakamatsu on Jan. 30; Guitar Passions with Sharon Isbin and friends on Feb. 15; the New York Chamber Soloists on March 20; and jazz/pop vocalist Diane Schuur on April 3.  

Thomasville Entertainment Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-led organization which presents three classical and three variety performances each season. In addition, TEF provides educational outreach programs and scholarship opportunities for area youth.


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