About three and a half—or so—years ago, I was at the Oakville store of L’átelier Grigorian looking for nothing in particular. I was talking with the store’s most knowledgeable attendant, Percy about the re-release of my column, Highly Opinionated. I had suggested that I would like to focus attention on some of the forgotten Canadian musicians and mentioned Moe Koffman and Don Thompson as some of the musicians who would be the focus of this column. Unknown to me another shopper in the store was listening in and soon I was tapped on the shoulder. Upon turning around, I discovered that the man in question was offering me a copy of a CD. It was a recording of Benny Goodman, the title of which I cannot recall.
However, I can recall the man’s face vividly. It was red, on which was perched an enormous nose. His hair was long and lank, and entirely white. “Hi,” he said, “I’m Peter Appleyard… I would like you to listen to this record that I made with Benny… well, in…” and then he prattled on melodiously about the date, following me around the store, talking excitedly as I went round the bins to find a vinyl of the record in question—of which of course there was none. So I took the CD from his hand and promised to buy it. Mr. Appleyard talked and talked… and talked.
I was enthralled as he told me of the record he had also made with members of the Benny Goodman band in 1974. There was Hank Jones on piano, Slam Stewart—the great Slam Stewart—on bass, Mel Lewis on drums… and on and on he went describing the atmosphere, the chatter, the jokes and the excited fatigue they all felt after the recording date was over. I asked Mr. Appleyard where I could find this recording. “You can’t,” he quipped. “I have not released it yet. I am waiting for some permissions and… as soon as that comes through…” he had drifted off while I was becoming a part of the recording itself, in spirit, as I often do when it is described so vividly.
Then, last year I received a copy of a record from Mr. Appleyard’s label, Linus Entertainment. The album, Peter Appleyard and the Jazz Giants—The Lost 1974 Sessions, was sensational. A technical masterpiece and a music expedition non pareil, and I mentioned this in my review. Peter Appleyard was a masterly band-leader on that date and the music was vibrant and swinging. Mr. Appleyard’s tone was like shimmering crystal and his ideas and improvisations were soaring and memorable. The chatter between the musicians provided an intense recollection of what transpires between musical brothers. The ghosts of the stature of Slam Stewart and Hank Jones create echoes in my ear, and now Peter Appleyard as well.
As I re-read the review, however, I feel the loss of my new friend. And I wonder how many more years we must wait until there is broader recognition for some of Canada’s finest musicians. I take out a copy of the record he insisted I buy that day to give it a spin. And I know that I, for one, cannot wait.