Peter Appleyard Big Band Tribute to Lionel Hampton


An auspicious occasion, if only because this was the first and only time, after years of seeing him perform live, that I have seen Appleyard out of his omni present blue blazer with the brass buttons. I was beginning to think he was born in that thing!

My first impression was that the arrangements were too staid, too based in nostalgia to appeal to me. Lots of gentle medley's, hinting at Hampton's greatness, but not allowing Appleyard or any members of his band to really shine. Appleyard's affection for Hampton is obvious, but it all felt too safe.

Then Appleyard brought on his friend, Frank Wright, who still performs with the Canadian Jazz Quartet and has often said that his playing has been influenced by Appleyard (Wright's story is an interesting one...he worked at Canada Post by day to support his family and played jazz by night). Wright's rendition of "Embraceable You" was beautiful, holding all the emotion and inspiration that was, until this point, lacking.

They followed that with a duet on "Perdido" which, as they say, blew the roof off the dump! Watching them trade bars, try to one up each other and play to the crowd the way they did was a real treat! The thing really swung, and the two men, true entertainers, were at the top of their game. Appleyard really does know how to work a crowd.

The finale, "Flyin' Home" (what else?), was fun because it was "Flyin' Home", which is a tune that really can't help but be fun. It reminded me of seeing Hamp live at Roy Thompson Hall many years ago, and of that great dance scene in Malcolm X. It would have been nice if one of the sax players could have busted out on the famous Illinois Jacquet solo, but I guess you can't have everything...

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