The Lost Sessions 1974-- Peter Appleyard and the Jazz Giants

The phrase "better late than never" certainly applies to the wonderful music on this CD, recorded in 1974 but only just now released in 2012. All but one of the musicians heard here--Peter Appleyard, Zoot Sims, Bobby Hackett, Urbie Green, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, and Mel Lewis (replacing Grady Tate)--accompanied Benny Goodman at his Carnegie Hall concert on September 14th, 1974. The next day they made the trip up to Toronto for Appleyard's own concert, after which a late night recording session was arranged by the leader, who named the band "The Jazz Giants." Why this music took so long to see the light of day is not made clear in Appleyard's notes included with the CD. The U.K.-born vibraphonist Appleyard moved to Toronto in 1951, and while not as well-known as the others outside of Canada, he proves undeniably on these tracks that he is their equal musically.

An "Ellington Medley" begins with Jones' distinctive, succinct intro to "Sophisticated Lady," paving the way for Appleyard, who sounds somewhat like Lionel Hampton while possessing his own personal slant. Sims breathily enters "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" and plays it with much feeling and conviction--a classic Sims performance. Hackett follows with declarative, brassy authority on "Prelude to a Kiss," with Jones smoothly handling the bridge. Urbie Green's cavernous trombone intones "Mood Indigo" with Applyard's engaging arpeggios in support, before the full band joins in for the rousing finale.

Hackett plays the theme of "After You've Gone" assertively before the tempo speeds up for heated statements by Appleyard and Sims, the latter in extended creative flight. The vibraphonist then returns in response, sailing assuredly and swingingly through the changes. Hackett solos next, now with a sweeter tone. Green's trombone improv is deep-toned and nimble, and Jones flows unerringly with a boppish slow burn. The capper is Stewart's arco bass/vocal pronouncement, typically tasteful and irresistible. Trades with a lively Mel Lewis ensue before the contrapuntal out chorus by all concerned. Jones' sparkling intro to "Tangerine" is succeeded by Appleyard, Sims, and Hackett, with the trumpeter stretching out in a low-keyed, unhurried, and always lyrical exploration. Sims and Appleyard converse alone before the rhythm section reenters, and the two soloists then continue on compellingly. Green eventually joins them, and the threesome churns jubilantly to port.

"You Don't Know What Love Is" is a trumpet/piano showcase for Hackett's lustrous sound and sophisticated phrasing, and Jones' dancing and darting single-note lines, with Stewart and Lewis providing a sensitive foundation. Green has the stage for the ballad reading of "But Beautiful," both sultry and elastic. He demonstrates how you can be technically proficient and warmly personal at the same time. His fluid coda is the final intricate threading to his splendidly woven tapestry. This is one of the most definitive trombone performances you are ever likely to hear. Sims breezes his way though the often played "You Go to My Head," making it his own with a singularly expressive burry tone and unfailingly fresh variations. Jones' solo spot is sprightly and absorbing, words that also describe Sims' subsequent improvisation.

Stewart's nonpareil approach is supremely on display for "Indiana," his deft bowed and pizzicato bass techniques and simultaneous vocalization in perfect tantalizing tandem. Goodman's "A Smooth One" is interpreted by the full ensemble, combining voices soothingly. Hackett, Sims, Hackett again, Appleyard, and Green have worthwhile says in that order prior to a brief reprise. This is a fully-packed 3:25 gem. Jones is elegant and soulful in his solo delineation of "Dancing On the Ceiling," bringing to mind both Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. Make no mistake, however, this is pure and unsurpassed Jones all the way.

There are about 25 minutes of out takes and studio banter included at the end as well, which may please completists, but it is the priceless 47-or-so minutes of music described above that make The Lost Sessions 1974 so highly recommended.

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Scott Albin