Here’s how the story goes.
Back in 1974, British-Canadian vibes player Peter Appleyard (now 83, and an officer of the Order of Canada) had just played a gig with Benny Goodman and his band at Carnegie Hall. Most of the band then travelled north of the border for a concert with Appleyard in Toronto. He called the band the Jazz Giants, which they were. (Slam Stewart, Zoot Sims, Hank Jones, Bobby Hackett, Mel Lewis and Urbie Green.) In a feat of good timing, Appleyard also got the band into a studio for a recording session.
Now, in the spring of 2012, that session is finally seeing the light of day.
"Ellington Medley" from The Lost Sessions:
Q: The Lost Sessions took nearly 40 years to be released. Why was it “lost?”
A: I had an appointment with a record company (Philips Records) in England when I was over there touring with the Benny Goodman Sextet. Despite the fact that I was still a British citizen, I got held up at immigration with the band when we arrived. By the time I got to London, the record executive had already left.
Q: Why did you wait until now to release it?
A: After missing the initial opportunity to release the album in the U.K., I hung onto the record until I found the right opportunity. After a few years, the reels of tape found a home in my attic, unfortunately, for decades. Then recently I was approached by Geoff Kulawick of True North Records/Linus Entertainment to see if I would like to record a new album with some of Canada's top female jazz vocalists. I jumped at the chance, and knowing Geoff was a big fan of traditional jazz, I told him about the Jazz Giants. When we struck a deal for the Sophisticated Ladies album — which I recorded this winter at CBC's studios – Geoff suggested we release The Lost 1974 Sessions too. Had I not recorded this new album, The Lost Sessions might have been lost forever.
Q: What was the atmosphere like at the session that night?
A: It was exceptional. I'd played with many of these musicians before, but to record with them was incredibly exciting for me. I had been a fan of all of these musicians for years, some even before I started playing jazz professionally. It really was a surreal moment for me. It was surreal for many players in the local community as well. It seemed like every musician in town that night was in the studio waiting to hear them play
Q: You'd played with (most of) the band not long before the session, at Carnegie Hall. What was that concert like?
A: It was a concert that Benny Goodman had put together. He personally rented Carnegie Hall to put on the show and all the proceeds generated from the show were donated to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Goodman had spent a lot of time there with health issues, and this was his way of giving back. It was always a great thrill to play with those musicians live. As a soloist, I was playing next to the likes of Mel Lewis and Slam Stewart. It was honestly like a musical seventh heaven.
"After You've Gone," from The Lost Sessions:
Q: It was primarily Benny Goodman's band. Do you recall his reaction to the session?
A: I let him listen to the record when it was finished. He thought it was really exceptional and a wonderful example of their talents. He said there was only one thing missing from the album — him.
Q: What's it like for you listening to the album now, after all these years?
A: It makes me long for that period of jazz — the kind of jazz that we were playing with Benny Goodman. I also long for that period of time, the place I was in my career. I was playing every major concert hall in Europe and the United States. At that time, we were even invited to play stages behind the Iron Curtain — in East Germany and parts of the Soviet Union. It was an experience not many got to have. Also, to travel with Goodman was like travelling with royalty. It was an amazing experience. Listening to The Lost 1974 Sessions, memories flood back. I'll always appreciate those times.
"But Beautiful," from The Lost Sessions:
This interview has been edited and condensed from the original.
A conversation with jazz legend Benny Golson
Q & A: Ron Paley, Winnipeg's unsung jazz hero
Peter Appleyard's website
All About Jazz: Peter Appleyard And The Jazz Giants: The Lost 1974 Sessions (2012)