News of Peter Appleyard’s passing came quick without deliberation.
It’s really difficult tying all personal thoughts into a precious bundle.
Eighty-four is a good stretch on planet earth but in my heart Peter was
destined to easily challenge a hundred. What do I base this on – that
set of vibes that weighed as much as a meteorite? Who could lift them
without a strenuous daily workout.
times I’ve stepped behind Peter’s car and offered assistance to only
get in the way. “I’ve got this – you get the curb.” Wow! That’s strength
and that's an order!
I never saw this coming.
years in Toronto were spent battling the Toronto Musicians Association. I
was used to that American brotherhood thing and my comrades in
Louisville. TMA in Toronto was more akin to boot camp with Stalin.
Appleyard was my hero!
Christ sake each edition of the TMA paper Crescendo posted a list a blacklisted players with Appleyard's name back page for some minor infraction or
another. Through the years I became a comrade and frequent member usually suspended for non payment of dues. I figured Appleyard was the
coolest dude in Canada. I detested those MFs. I assumed if I got my name in the
same column Peter would protect me and one day we’d high five and
scream something back at them like – bring it on – I'VE PAID LIFE DUES!
As we began expanding the media parameters of Toronto jazz we
quickly learned Peter was not a member of the local dreaded jazz
police. Hey boys – it’s ‘All the Things You Are” or get off the
bandstand. He was the dude arms length from the local Stasi.
Peter focused on the world beyond Lake Ontario and traveled and traveled and toured to great concert venues out of reach for locals.
We connected through the Jazz Report Magazine – CJRT FM - and National
Jazz Awards. I’d be out there offering a helping hand and he’d tell me
stand aside. I’d witness him do a Jack Lalanne on heavy metal.
To appreciate his playing you needed to get down front close in and
watch those wrists snap and notes scatter. Every line guided by history
and yes Red Norvo and Lionel Hampton had a tight grip and possibly
Terry Gibbs on the elongated statements.
I’d pull the camera out and stake every angle - shoot a few frames – then watch and listen. Superb!
Appleyard had tremendous respect for Benny Goodman. Anyone stoked on
jazz would surely admit Goodman ran a tight ship and precision was
mandatory. You can’t disappear in a small group – you have to play the
big front end parts or take a seat with the audience.
So, I as
many of you will need a few days to absorb Peter’s passing and we’ll
talk and listen and wish Peter Jr. and Suzie our best. When your family
loves you this much you know you’re truly something special.