Peter Appleyard / Various Sophisticated Ladies

A former member of Benny Goodman's Jazz Sextet, veteran jazz vibraphonist/bandleader Appleyard has long been a popular fixture on the Toronto scene. Remarkably, at age 83, he has come out of retirement and just released two albums. Following on the heels of the well received The Lost 1974 Sessions comes this new studio album of jazz standards, featuring a line-up of many of Canada's leading female jazz vocalists. The choice of material is predictable (multiple tunes from Ellington and Porter), but there's a nice range in the styles of the singers represented. Emile-Claire Barlow, Elizabeth Shepherd, Sophie Milman and Carol Welsman all deliver the classic phrasing for which they're known, while Jackie Richardson adds some bluesy power to "Georgia On My Mind." Jill Barber's sweet version of "Love For Sale" is a highlight, as is Molly Johnson's typically convincing take on the song that inspired the album title: "Sophisticated Lady." Good to see rising young Toronto star Barbra Lica featured in this company. Appleyard's fluent vibes work is an appealing accompaniment and he's assisted by A-list players John Sherwood, Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson and Terry Clarke. This is a very pleasing project. (Linus)