While the aggregation of all-star jazz men featured on this previously unreleased, decades-old session may seem random at first glance, the great Benny Goodman
is actually the musical tie that binds them all. In September of 1974, vibraphonist Peter Appleyard was part of a particularly strong Goodman sextet that appeared at Carnegie Hall. Appleyard had his own gig in Toronto the following evening and, amazingly enough, everyone in the band, with the exception of drummer Grady Tate
, was available. Appleyard acquired the services of Mel Lewis
to fill in the empty drummer's chair, and he suddenly found himself fronting the ultimate ad hoc ensemble of the day.
Nobody, save for the people who were at the show, might have ever known about this group, but Appleyard was able to parlay this once-in-lifetime gig into a loose and relaxed, late night recording session that's finally seeing the light of day. While the playlist indicates nineteen tracks, the album really contains nine proper performances, with studio banter tacked on between songs and a hefty, 25-minute audio montage of outtakes included as a bonus.
The set opens with a mellow Duke Ellington
medley that moves from a vibraphone-oriented "Sophisticated Lady" to the gorgeous "I've Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," that highlights saxophonist Zoot Sims
' elegant, breathy bouquet. The brass take the baton for the remainder of the medley, with cornetist Bobby Hackett
crooning on "Prelude To A Kiss" and trombonist Urbie Green
bringing it home on "Mood Indigo," but everybody is back in action on the follow-up, "After You've Gone," which starts with some multi-horn polyphony and heats up when it goes into a double-time swing feel. Elsewhere, Appleyard and Sims tangle their solo lines with spectacular results on "Tangerine," pianist Hank Jones
steals the spotlight for a solo piano take on "Dancing On The Ceiling," and bassist Slam Stewart
proves to be his ever-entertaining self with his inimitable scat-matches-arco soloing on "Indiana."
While the inclusion of the studio dialogue tracks and outtakes may not have been in the album's best interest as they tend to take away from the overall listening experience, they do provide an insider's view of the session, helping to capture the moment in its entirety. Fortunately, this proves to be a minor bone of contention on a largely enjoyable album, crafted by some of the finest musicians to ever wield their respective horns.
Studio Dialogue 1; Ellington Medley; Studio Dialogue 2; After You've Gone; Studio Dialogue 3; Tangerine; Studio Dialogue 4; You Don't Know What Love Is; Studio Dialogue 5; But Beautiful; Studio Dialogue 6; You Go To My Head; Studio Dialogue 7; Indiana; Studio Dialogue 8; A Smooth One; Studio Dialogue 9; Dancing On The Ceiling; Bonus Tracks-Out Takes.
Peter Appleyard: vibraphone; Hank Jones: piano; Zoot Sims: tenor saxophone; Slam Stewart: bass; Bobby Hackett: cornet; Mel Lewis: drums; Urbie Green: trombone.