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Peter Appleyard: Sophisticated Ladies

Edward Blanco By

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Celebrated Canadian vibraphonist Peter Appleyard made some waves on his last instrumental album, revisiting the past in a previously unreleased recording that captured a select group of jazz giants on the historic The Lost 1974 Session (Linus, 2011). Now, this 84 year-old jazz legend focuses on the present and surrounds himself with a phenomenal group of talented ladies who voice time-honored classic standards on Sophisticated Ladies. Though not the first album boasting this particular conceptual approach, it is the first to include ten of Canada's greatest jazz vocalists and, unlike bassist Charlie Haden's 2010 EmArcy album of the same name—split evenly between vocals and instrumentals—Appleyard's project is an all-vocals album, featuring a singer on each of its ten tracks.

Borrowing music from the songbooks of Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Tadd Dameron, Hoagy Carmichael and, of course, the great Duke Ellington, Appleyard puts together a recording of old school jazz. Offering fresh new arrangements of oft-recorded standards, the vibraphonist remains true to each melody, keeping it straight and simple, with only the songbirds adding sophistication to the music. Eschewing the usual horns (saxophone, trumpet, and trombones) associated with a jazz quintet; Appleyard employs a unique vibes/piano/guitar format which works quite well.

Pianist John Sherwood, along with bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke, opens the set, featuring vocalist Emile-Clarke Barlow on a swinging version of "After You've Gone," followed by a vibe-intense rendition of "It's Only A Paper Moon," with Elizabeth Sheppard providing its hushed vocals. Jill Barber lends her unique sound to Porter's immortal "Love For Sale," with guitarist Reg Schwager weighing in. The vibes and Jackie Richardson share the limelight on the classic "Georgia On My Mind," while Sophie Milman gives Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" a lively treatment, with the help of a fine Appleyard solo.

Veteran singer Molly Johnson has the honor of voicing Ellington's title track, followed by perhaps the best track of the album, Porter's famous "Night And Day," capturing terrific instrumentals from the group and Carol Welsman's piano and dynamic vocals. Barbra Lica and Carol McCartney voice the other two Ellington tunes, "Satin Doll" and ""Mood Indigo." The voices are silenced after an absolutely beautiful version of Charlie Chaplin's unforgettable "Smile," presented by singer Diana Panton, completing another special album from the very special Appleyard.

On Sophisticated Ladies, ten wonderful songstresses share their own unique approach to a collection of songs the world has come to know and cherish, delivering each one with a measure of swing, passion and class.

Track Listing: After You've Gone; It's Only A Paper Moon; Love For Sale; Georgia On My Mind; If You Could See Me Now; Sophisticated Lady; Night And Day; Satin Doll; Mood Indigo; Smile.

Personnel: Peter Appleyard: vibraphone; John Sherwood: piano; Reg Schwager: guitar; Neil Swainson: bass; Terry Clarke: drums; Emilie-Claire Barlow: vocals (1); Elizabeth Shepherd: vocals (2); Jill Barber: vocals (3); Jackie Richardson: vocals (4); Sophie Milman: vocals (5); Molly Johnson: vocals (6); Carol Welsman: vocals (7), piano (7); Barbara Lica: vocals (8); Carol McCartney: vocals (9); Diana Panton: vocals (10).

Title: Sophisticated Ladies | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Linus Entertainment


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