Many accolades have been given to Indy’s frontline jazz players, but this city has also had its share of top-notch rhythm players. One of Indy’s jazz legends who is returning home this weekend to the Jazz Kitchen is drummer “Killer” Ray Appleton.
Appleton has had a storied and stormy career in music. A product of Indiana Avenue’s fabled jazz proving ground, Appleton started playing drums at the age of 9. He honed his craft with local peers, such as Freddie Hubbard, Larry Ridley and Jimmy Spaulding, before they all took off for New York to make a solid reputation for themselves in the jazz world. His reputation for being a fearless drummer with impeccable taste and swing made him very much in demand in New York’s jazz hierarchy. Appleton has played and recorded with the likes of John Coltrane and has toured with his own group.
Appleton has turned over a new leaf in his career and life. He now serves as a national spokesperson for Roche Laboratories on Hepatitis C and its dangers and a new method of treatment developed by Roche called Pegasys combination therapy. He candidly admits that in his younger days as a touring musician, his lifestyle and partying were the reasons he contracted Hepatitis C. As a result of his Pegasys therapy, Appleton says he is now completely cured of Hepatitis C.
Adversity has never stopped Appleton. He overcame the loss of a leg due to diabetes in the ’90s. He now has a prothesis and, as he stated to me, his playing has never been better. “I am playing better now than I ever could. For some reason I am playing better than I ever was before because it’s more of a concentrated effort now.”
This is a far different Appleton. He admits he is extremely happy that he is able to concentrate on his drums and that his CD of five years ago, Killer Ray Rides Again, on Sharp Nine Records, is doing well. Late this summer, Appleton will get a chance to fulfill one of his lifetime dreams. “I am going to go in to do this Wes Montgomery project that I have been wanting to do all my life, because Wes was the one that really showed me how it goes. So we will have “Remembering Wes 2003” — that’s the name of the project.”
“Killer” Ray Appleton is still a musical force to be reckoned with and a man who never gave up on realizing his dreams.
It’s 500 race weekend in town, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of other sounds that are more melodic going on. Jazz reigns as a major factor in Indy’s cultural fabric for you to enjoy this week.
The Chatterbox brings back the popular legendary saxophonist “Pookie” Johnson & the Indy Jazz All Stars on Friday, May 23. A hot young group led by the fiery trumpet of Kyle Quass takes the bandstand on Saturday, May 24. Sets both nights run from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse “Sizzling Steaks and Jazz” Sunday series welcomes back tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon’s Quartet with guest vocalist Cynthia Layne May 25 playing 7 to 10 p.m.
St Elmo’s has Chooch and the Enchanters on Thursday, May 22. The stylistic sound of vocalist Cynthia Layne can be heard Friday, May 23 and Saturday, May 24. Music starts each night at 7 p.m.
Jazz on the Avenue in the fourth floor ballroom of the Madame Walker Theatre Center features vocalist James Bell Friday, May 23 from 6 to 10 p.m.
The Jazz Kitchen has the crowd-pleasing contemporary jazz playing of guitarist Charlie Smith’s Project back on Friday, May 23 for shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. One of Indy’s jazz legends, drummer “Killer” Ray Appleton returns from New York on Saturday with support by Steve Allee on piano and the renowned Jamey Abersold on sax for shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.
Sullivan’s Steakhouse has the hard-swinging trio of Claude Sifferlen on piano, Joe Deal on bass and Nick Ashton on drums Friday, May 23 and Saturday, May 24, performing from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Gregory’s features the Bob Slawson Duo Thursday, May 22 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Everett Greene sings with Carl Hines on keyboards Friday, May 23, followed by Mary Moss’ vocals and Alan “Turk” Burke on keyboards Saturday, May 24. Performances both nights are 8 to 11 p.m.
Sangiovese features the diva sounds of Brenda Williams on Wednesdays with David Meek on keyboards and Frank Smith on bass. It’s Shannon Forsell supported by Ray Larman on keyboards Thursdays from 7 to 10 p.m.
LuLu’s at the Fashion Mall presents Mary Moss’ vocals, Carl Hine on piano and Mingo Jones on bass Thursday, May 22 from 8 to 11 p.m.