Killer Ray Appleton

Next week (Dec. 4) I’ll be making a hit up in East Harlem at Creole with a very old friend and one of the jazz world’s truly great drummers, Otis “Killer” Ray Appleton. We go back a long way; Killer Ray played on my senior recital at the Wisconsin Conservatory Of Music. At the time, he was a part of Buddy Montgomery’s Trio (Buddy, a Milwaukee resident throughout my formative years, was a great influence on me as well as other Milwaukeeans such as David Hazeltine). I think he was the best drummer I had ever played with at that time, and I still can’t think of anything more swinging than his cymbal beat. He is a master of the art of swing, a philosopher of rhythm in jazz music, an architect of group orchestration in the tradition of Art Blakey and Philly Joe but with his own lexicon of thunder.

After many years of not being in too close contact Killer and I have reconnected and it’s become a real value for me to work together with him in collaboration. I’m hoping to be able to be a resource for him via HMW to make his work known and to facilitate the creation of some new work in the recorded realm and otherwise.

I invite you down to Creole! Information below:


"Killer" Ray Appleton & Brian Lynch
Killer Ray & Brian Lynch @ Smalls

Swing by Harlem’s Creole and hear the fire  as “Killer” Ray Appleton and his sextet pay tribute to trumpet master Freddie Hubbard. “Killer” Ray and his band will perform some of the prime material from Hubbard’s catalogue as well as tunes Appleton himself played with the trumpeter while working together during the 1960s.

Featured in the “hot seat” are two of the most eminent trumpeters on the jazz scene today. On Friday, Dec. 4, Grammy Award honoree Brian Lynch will bring his deep love & understanding of Hub’s music to the bandstand. On Saturday the 5th, top-shelf NYC ace Joe Magnarelli steps out front to play his take on this giant’s music. You won’t want to miss either night! The rest of “Killer”’s sextet comprises some of the top players around NYC; Ian Hendrickson-Smith on alto sax (Fri.); Todd Herbert on tenor sax; Bill Cantrall on trombone (Sat.); Rick Germanson on piano and Bob Sabin on bass.

Place: Creole Restaurant & Supper Club, 2167 Third Avenue, New York, NY, (212) 876-8838
Dates &Times: Friday December 4th and Saturday December 5th, 8-11 PM (2 sets at 8 PM and 10 PM)
For More Information & Reservations:

“Killer” Ray Appleton

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1941, “Killer” Ray Appleton was blessed to begin his career in the best possible environment. Mentored from an early age by the slightly older Freddie Hubbard, Ray had his first professional gig at the age of fourteen playing drums with another fellow Indianapolis native, Wes Montgomery. By the age of nineteen, Ray had followed trumpeter Kenny Dorham to join his band in New York, there meeting such jazz icons as Philly Joe Jones, and John Coltrane. In the mid-60s, Appleton toured and performed with Coltrane and Hubbard, his drumming appearing on Coltrane’s albums Infinity and Cosmic Music and playing a crucial role on Hubbard’s Backlash.

During the 1970s and 1980s Appleton lived and performed primarily in Europe, enjoying work in the jazz community abroad and taking part in such international jazz festivals as the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Antibes Jazz Festival, and The Vienna Concert with Dizzy Gillespie. Towards the end of his period abroad however, Appleton’s fate took a turn when he was involved in an accident that eventually required the amputation of part of his leg. This setback forced Ray’s absence from the jazz scene for a period of a few years while recovering his health, but Appleton has made a comeback as of recently and still plays with the fire he had before. Now living in New York City, Ray Appleton records and performs with his own sextet, the group’s recent release on record being Killer Ray Strikes Again, featuring alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Slide Hampton, and pianist John Hicks. “Killer” Ray represents a minority of surviving musicians who came-of-age when jazz was at its zenith, having had the opportunity to play with jazz music’s greats and who deeply understand the concept of “swing.”