Last time around, I was hipping FAME readers up to the Linus label's rescue of a 1974 lost Peter Appleyard gig with the Jazz Giants (here), a small big band loaded to the gills with heavy hitters and puh-lenty of suh-wing as well as a ballad or three. Well, the label's back again and so is Pete, this time in a five-piece ensemble that may well be one of the best environments for Appleyard's compositional voice and vibesmanship to come through. At age 84, the guy shows few signs of taking it easy, hitting on the 6's and the 9's, plying the mallets while here introducing a feast of 10 different singers encanting great versions of solid standards.
This isn't hard bop, but there's plenty of scatting and swing goin' on amid tasty instrumentation. Neil Swainson plies a really meaty contrabass as Jill Barber turns in an almost Carol Channing-esque vocal side in Love for Sale. Appleyard tucks in a stream of lines and background colors throughout, taking the lead voice in Georgia on my Mind until Jackie Richardson chimes in, taking the register down a notch, flowing through a soulful recitation. The most intriguing cut, however, is Molly Johnson's version of the title groove, Sophisticated Lady, a cross of Billie and Eartha with an edge of Sarah. In her raw sometimes straining voice we hear a rare wedding of atonality and pure emotion with slinky grace, strength and frailness reconciled, that concatenation which keeps Holliday so compelling after so many years (and will continue to do so). Further on, Barbra Lica sounds like Johnson in earlier days in Satin Doll. Those two songs are my faves, hands down.
Reg Schwager dominates the intro section in the closing cut, Smile, at first a duet between him and Diana Panton, his guitar painting a Spanish background as she floats within, but mention must also be made of Terry Clarke's drums everywhere, as he can put a solid bash in as well as fade into brushes for pastel strokes. John Sherwood's piano assumes center seat and Appleyard tends to hold everything together with Rick Wilkins' sparkling arrangements. Yow! Though we may, to the side, also wish for more, from other quarters, in the way of what Miles started in wild fusion, we have to also breathe a gratified sigh of relief and say "Thank Christ!" when hearing Peter Appleyard and a clutch of old mainstays keeping the swing genre alive and well.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles