Having fomented a variety of concerts, a jazz festival, and educational programs and scholarships, the society's place in Florida's jazz scene is secure. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is the perfect venue for the dinner and concert: Many of the events brought about under the society's auspices have taken place at the center.
The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. with musical entertainment by Simon Salz, music director of the Gold Coast Jazz Society Band. But while good food and tunes are expected at the dinner, the real entertainment begins at 7:45 p.m., when a jazz quintet supergroup takes the stage. The band is made up of drummer Duffy Jackson, pianist John Bunch, bassist Joel Forbes, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, and clarinetist Ken Peplowski. All of these men have lengthy résumés, but it is Allen and Peplowski whom most jazz aficionados would recognize.
Allen is something of a newcomer, at least compared to his fellows in the quintet. After graduating from Rutgers University, he got his first gig replacing Zoot Sims in a recording with, dauntingly enough, George Masso, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ruby Braff, and Bunch, all of them about 40 years his senior. But he must have done something right with the old guys, for that gig has led to a successful career as a supporting musician, both in the studio and on the road.
Peplowski, as overzealous swing fans may know, cut his teeth with Tommy Dorsey's ghost orchestra before playing with Benny Goodman, a move that has led many people to proclaim him Goodman's successor. Even Mel Tormé, another performer Peplowski backed, once said that the clarinetist is one of the few who can fill Goodman's void. Strong words from the Velvet Fog.