Peplowski started playing instruments that his father did not master
Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski will appear alongside bandmates Ehud Asherie on piano, Peter Washington on bass, Willie Jones III on drums and Houston Person on tenor saxophone as the closing shows on the main stage of the Litchfield Jazz Festival Saturday.
Born in 1959 in the port city of Cleveland, Peplowski’s interest in music was cultivated early in his life by his father. A police officer and amateur musician by his side, Peplowski’s father familiarized himself with a variety of instruments but did not master any in particular.
These rejected instruments will find new company with the young Peplowski brothers.
Ted Peplowski revolved around the trumpet and his brother Ken moved to the clarinet.
Unlike their father, both boys demonstrated an aptitude for music.
When they were about 12, their father asked his sons to form a polka band called the Harmony Kings and hired them for weddings and other gigs.
In a 2019 interview with the Jazz Times, Peplowski described this sudden push into live performance as “exactly like you want to learn to swim by being thrown in the water. We (had to) progress, because all of a sudden we find ourselves having to play these trades.
By the time the brothers were in high school, Ken Peplowski began to experiment more with jazz while performing with their school’s live bands and other local musicians. He would even start teaching at his local music store, mastering his saxophone and clarinet. Later, he studied at Cleveland State University for two years.
During this time in college he had the opportunity to perform with the trio of Teddy Wilson and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under Buddy Morrow, and he toured with them from 1978 to 1980 until that he moved to New York at the age of 21 to become independent. .
In the Big Apple, Peplowski would work with artists such as Benny Goodman and Carl Jefferson, and record around 20 albums as a frontman with Concord Records over more than a decade. These recordings include his debut album, 1988’s “Double Exposure” and 1992’s “The Natural Touch”, which was awarded Best Jazz Record of the Year by the Deutschen Schallplatten Kritiken Prizes.
During his career, Peplowski recorded as a sideman, and sometimes as a leader, with musicians like the Eddie Higgins Quintet, Bobby Short, Shelly Berg, Jay Leonhart and Joe LaBarbera.
So far, Peplowski has recorded over 70 CDs as a soloist and some 400 as a sideman during his career.
At 63, Peplowski can still be found teaching workshops for students of all ages, conducting and performing at jazz festivals around the world, and recording.
Peplowski will perform on the main stage at the Litchfield Jazz Festival on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at the Perakos Art and Community Center at the Frederick Gunn School, Washington, Connecticut.