Jazz Review: Peter Appleyard - Sophisticated Ladies

Canadian jazz is alive and well.
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peter appleyard - sophisticated ladiesAt 84 years of age, Canadian jazz music legend Peter Appleyard shows no signs of slowing down. The vibraphonist has shared bandstands with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, and fellow Canuck Oscar Peterson. He has enjoyed gigs at the Baldwin Club and Colonial Tavern, rubbing elbows with Duke Ellington and Clark Terry along the way.

With Sophisticated Ladies, Appleyard proves that he’s still got the get-up-and-go to work with some of the best in the business.

Not only does the album prove that Appleyard is still capable of putting together some beautiful music, it showcases the fact that Canadian jazz is in good hands. Sophisticated Ladies features an all-Canadian cast of contributors. It was recorded in Toronto by Anthony Montano and features some of the slickest, smoothest female vocalists in the game.

Appleyard’s vibes are fresh and his quintet is graceful and skilled, featuring John Sherwood on piano, Reg Schwager on guitar, Neil Swainson on bass, and Terry Clarke on drums.

The vocalists handle a number of standards, putting new takes on some old standards and adding a little Canadian zest along the way.

Emilie-Claire Barlow takes the opening faceoff, working with an arrangement of “After You’ve Gone.” She isn’t the most imposing presence on the record, but her scat-singing lets her dexterously fire off some energy and her enunciation puts just the right point on things.

Clarke shows his stuff on “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” highlighting the tune with solid fills and magnificent refinement. Elizabeth Shepherd’s vocals are warm, while Appleyard’s involvement fits into the larger expanse right on target. He is a fluid player and his vibes slide effortlessly over the rhythm.

A blistering version of “Georgia On My Mind” highlights the album thanks to a lively arrangement and the stellar Jackie Richardson. Her presence is unstoppable and her commanding singing knocks a path through the band’s robust presence. Richardson’s tones are vast, strong and full-bodied – and no, I’m not just saying that because we share a last name. She’s a star.

Other tracks reveal other first-rate vocalists, like the sultry and sensual sounds of Jill Barber on the tantalizing “Love For Sale” or the reassuring tones of Diana Panton on Chaplin’s “Smile.”

Through it all, Appleyard is dependable and chic. He is a professional player, to be sure, and Sophisticated Ladies continues his legend in grand Canadian style. We Canucks may not be ones to boast, but this cat sure as hell gives us reason to.