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Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.11.08




Musical Permutations

Improvisation from new faces and familar ones

By Brett Campbell

Ken Peplowski

Over the years, the UO music school has been a wellspring for Eugene music. The school’s concerts and faculty and student musicians supply a high percentage of the most stimulating music in town, whether on campus or in the clubs and concert halls. The best students usually move on to bigger ponds; Portland teems with terrific players and composers whose careers were ignited at the UO, and many of the school’s alumni are making great music in New York, San Francisco and beyond. Some do stick around or return to Eugene for the usual reasons: nice place to raise kids, the UO’s various cultural offerings, “world’s greatest city for arts and outdoors,” etc. 

On Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, two of the brightest lights to emerge from the school in recent years are collaborating on what looks to be a fascinating project called Any Permutation. Flutist/composer Daniel Heila, whose background ranges from garage rock/post-punk bands to experimental postclassical music, co-founded one of the most admirable student-initiated projects at the UO in the 1990s, the 100th Monkey ensemble, which for years produced some of the most exciting new music in Oregon. He’s since moved into free improv and atmospheric sound and video art. Composer/trumpeter Douglas Detrick, now completing his master’s degree, has been a star at the music school in the ’00s, where he’s led exceptional jazz-oriented bands playing his original tunes and arrangements and is beginning to integrate jazz and classical instrumentation. Guitarist Bill Marsh may be the next new UO jazz star, having already garnered a slew of awards. The trio has found common ground in the high-wire world of free improv, which combines jazz and non-jazz improvisational elements, acoustic and electric sounds and Heila’s evocative video magic. It should be a fascinating combination. 

A master of an older improvising tradition returns to the Shedd on Dec. 12, when sublime clarinetist Ken Peplowski performs his sixth annual winter concert with veteran jazz pianist Bill Mays. Peplowski has worked in Benny Goodman’s band, Dixieland ensembles and with trad jazzers and old-time pop singers from Rosemary Clooney to George Shearing to Mel Torme, and leads a New York ensemble. He also plays tenor sax and succeeded his colleague Dick Hyman as director of the Oregon Festival of American Music jazz program. Mays has played with Sarah Vaughan, Gerry Mulligan, Al Jarreau, Art Pepper and many other jazz legends and is a fine solo pianist. The two have recorded many albums separately, and they’ll combine their sympathetic musical esthetics, with help from drummer Gary Hobbs and bassist Chuck Deardorf, in jazz versions of the songs of the supreme American composer Jerome Kern, who wrote the tunes for the landmark 1936 musical Showboat, various Hollywood classics, and immortal tunes such as “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “All the Things You Are,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and dozens more.