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What's so good about Peter Appleyard?
It's not too often that I get to use the words "Canadian" "jazz" and "legend" in one sentence. But when it comes to Peter Appleyard, it's a most apt description.
Peter Appleyard has toured the world, sharing stages with Benny Goodman’s world class band, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Tony Bennett and Mel Tormé. He's an Officer of the Order of Canada and will be named an Oscar Peterson Lifetime Achievement honoree at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival (2012). He's released over 20 albums under his own name and has performed on countless others.
If you've read some of my other posts, you will likely have noticed a recurring theme or two when it comes to what I consider to be important musical qualities. For example: fun and swing. I finally got to see Peter Appleyard live about three years ago and I was floored by his performance. He epitomized, in a few short tunes (his mini-set was part of a larger show), so much of what I think a master performer should be. He played the stuffing out of the vibraphone, had a great time doing so, and was completely engaging with the audience.
High quality video clips of Peter are hard to find online, but here's one from 1997 which shows off not only his ability on the instrument, but his incredible sense of swing - check out especially the "head out" (when the melody comes back in after the solos) around 2:30:
A couple of things stand out for me in this performance. First, Peter's incredibly gracious, allowing his bandmates to do most of the soloing. His comping (what he plays behind the soloists) is tasteful - he's sure not to crowd the soloist. His sense of time and swing are impeccable. And he looks like he's having a blast.
What I also like about Peter is his desire to foster and encourage emerging artists. In the 1970's he had a television show called Peter Appleyard Presents on which he introduced such artists as Scott Hamilton and Warren Vache. Peter's most recent recording features 11 of Canada's most talented emerging and established female vocalists - here again, Peter's happy to give his guests centre stage. Lest you think that, with a career spanning close to 70 years, Peter is slowing down, you can sample tracks from the new album - recorded just this past winter - at the True North Records website and see for yourself: Peter is still swinging after all these years.
Peter Appleyard is an engaging performer, a master story teller, and a musician not to be missed. He takes to the stage on Tuesday, June 26, 8 pm at Koerner Hall with nine of the "Sophisticated Ladies": Jill Barber, Emilie-Claire Barlow, Ranee Lee, Elizabeth Shepherd, Jackie Richardson, Diana Panton, Lily Frost, Carol McCartney and host Heather Bambrick. For complete information visit Peter's concert page.
P.S. - For a fun clip from 1977 of Peter on 90 Minutes Live with host Peter Gzowski visit the CBC Digital Archives.