Monday, February 26, 2018

An artful blending of two musical genres

Jazz and classical music rarely intersect. But they make interesting bedfellows when brought together by two musicians who are well at ease in both fields.

Dick Hyman and Ken Peplowski
Such was the case on Saturday, February 24 when pianist Dick Hyman and reed player Ken Peplowski joined forces with a  47-member orchestra conducted by Yakov Bergman. The "Symphony of Broadway" program at the Venice (FL) Performing Arts Center featured a wide variety of band formats..

Hyman, who turns 91 on March 8, has been a prolific pianist, organist, composer, arranger, bandleader, composer of film scores and orchestral works in his long and distinguished career. He was honored last April as a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master.

Peplowski, best known as a proponent of swinging mainstream jazz, also delves into the classical world on occasion, and has been a frequent collaborator with Hyman for many years in many contexts.

Hyman opened the program with a solo piano version of "Lullaby of Broadway" that at times was delicate, playful and bold as he segued through a wide range of jazz  styles. Then came two piano-clarinet duos, "Forty-Second Street" and "Broadway," that celebrated the Hyman-Peplowski rapport. The evening for the most part also paid homage to the vibrant music scene that dominated New York City's Broadway and the jazz clubs that were clustered along the famous thoroughfare or its side streets..
The sextet

The first set ended with  Hyman's delicate four-part "Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and Strings," which they performed with a string quartet.
Peplowski with strings attached

The second half of the program was the most ambitious and impactful. It opened with the world premiere of "Three Delights for Clarinet and Orchestra," which Hyman composed and dedicated to Peplowski. The rest of the evening took on a jazzier feel, sometimes enhanced by the full orchestra. At other times, with just a jazz quartet format. 
Emulating a dusky jazz club

Hyman had the stage lights dimmed to create a dusky jazz club feel for a quartet version of "Lester Leaps In," the first of several tunes that featured Peplowski on tenor sax. The quartet, with Alejandro Arenas on bass and Mark Feinman on drums, got subtle orchestral backing for "How Long Has This Been Going On." Peplowski shifted back to clarinet on Cy Coleman's :With Every Breath I Take" from the film City of Angels. He then featured Hyman on George and Ira Gershwin's ballad "Liza" from the 1929 Ziegfeld musical Show Girl. 

The evening came to a rousing finish with Hyman's Dixieland-style arrangement of "Give My Regards to Broadway," performed with the full orchestra and featuring solos by Herb Bruce on trombone and Peplowski on clarinet.

The concert was co-produced by the Venice Institute for Performing Arts and the South County Jazz Club. 
Ken Peplowski, with Yakow Bergman at the podium
Hyman and Peplowski were featured with a 47-piece orchestra.

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