What fun. We are in a recording studio in the middle of the night in Toronto in 1974. Vibraphonist Peter Appleyard has just played a concert at the Ontario Place Forum with fellow Benny Goodman sidemen Zoot Sims, Bobby Hackett, Urbie Green, Hank Jones, Slam Stewart and Mel Lewis. After the show, they all go to RCA Studios, order in some Chinese food and “a few bottles of wine,” and, between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m., lay down some tracks.
Everyone sounds sublimely mellow but still alert. The tapes have been in storage for 38 years. For this release, Appleyard left in the false starts, outtakes and studio banter. (“I’ll go first, you take two, then we jam it up.”) We are eavesdropping on a lost moment in time, rescued from the shadows of history.
The music flows effortlessly from a pure, primary source into which only elite jazz elders are tapped. Sims is a revelation, especially if you haven’t heard him in a while. On “I’ve Got It Bad,” the decadent sensual languidness of his tenor saxophone tone is one that no longer exists on this Earth. “After You’ve Gone” and “You Go to My Head” push the pace to a relaxed medium throb. Sims swings like crazy without breaking a sweat.
Hackett’s tart cornet portrays sad, wise romanticism on “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Green’s trombone feature, “But Beautiful,” is a leisurely tracing of spontaneous elegant form. Jones is characteristically modest and tastefully exact. Appleyard’s vibes quietly eddy and swirl in the background and set the dreamy mood.
The last 25 minutes of the CD, all studio conversation and partial takes, can be heard once. The nine complete tracks need to be lingered over repeatedly, preferably after midnight, with or without Chinese food and wine.