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Canadian jazz musician Peter Appleyard dead at 85

Canadian jazz musician Peter Appleyard

Don Dixon

Widely respected Canadian jazz musician Peter Appleyard, a master of the vibraphone who shared the stage with some of his genre's most legendary performers, has died. He was 84.

Appleyard died Wednesday night at home of natural causes, confirmed his friend and manager John Cripton of Great World Artists.

Born in Lincolnshire on the east coast of England, Appleyard became a drummer during the Second World War before immigrating to Toronto in 1951.

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He started his own band in 1956 and immediately began lining up commercial work with frequent television and radio appearances including hosting gigs on CBC-Radio's Patti and Peter"(alongside Patti Lewis) and the CBC-TV program Mallets and Brass with Guido Basso.

But his career took a pivotal turn in 1972 when a casual conversation with famed clarinetist Benny Goodman – the "King of Swing" – turned into a head-turning position in Goodman's sextet as well as globe-trotting tours for Appleyard.

Ultimately, Appleyard would share the stage with such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald.

Appleyard was also notable for his own work. He released 22 albums, the most recent of which – Sophisticated Ladies – came out last June and featured collaborations with a number of younger Canadian jazz chanteuses, including Jill Barber, Emilie-Claire Barlow and Elizabeth Shepherd.

His last performance was this past May, when he and a group of his decorated friends — including Basso on trumpet, Jane Bunnett on sax and Terry Clarke on drums — gathered for a night of jazz in Appleyard's barn.

In 1992, Appleyard was made an officer of the Order of Canada. He received the Queen's Diamond Jubilee award last year.

Appleyard lived on a farm in Eden Mills, Ont.

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