Charlie Apicella & Iron City recently released “The Business.” Apicella may not be a household word yet but he has assembled a hard grooving band to play behind his funky and soulful guitar playing. Dave Mattlock is on organ, Alan Korzin plays drums. Stephen Riley is on tenor saxophone and Mayra Casales on percussion.
The opening and title cut’s groove is infectious. The Business features the rhythm section behind Apicella and Riley’s guitar and tenor unison. Apicella solos first over the sparse, yet driving organ pads of Dave Mattlock. Riley follows with his own funky tenor ala Eddie Harris. His sound is truly unique. There is air and spit in his sound, as though he is holding back but it’s a GREAT sound! He plays just enough – never playing chops just for the sake of playing chops. Refreshing indeed.
As soulful and funky as the opening cut is, 64 Cadillac reveals itself to be it’s own funky cha-cha groove. Again Riley’s airy tenor sound is wonderful over the percolating rhythm section. Again, he sounds original here although one is reminded of the great Stan Getz bossa nova recordings of the 60s. As before, Stephen Riley never overplays, just states the facts. Mayra Casales also gets a well-deserved solo spot on percussion prior to the last melodic statement.
Donny Brook starts with the tenor and guitar in unison and then light harmony. Riley’s tenor in the upper register gives the melody an airier quality and almost sounds like soprano and guitar at first. Dave Mattlock solos on organ following Apicella on guitar. As the others often demonstrate, Mattlock plays with great restraint as well. The vamp between solos remains relaxed and the rhythm section chugs along dutifully behind Riley’s tenor. Riley remains faithful to the bluesy nature of the song and only briefly displays a few tasteful, bebop style licks.
Ironcity features the now signature sound of Apicella’s guitar and Riley’s tenor in unison. For the first time on “The Business” Stephen Riley airs it out. He demonstrates the depth and understanding he has of the jazz language. His vocabulary is precise as he weaves through descending ii-Vs – all the while never straying far from his blues inclinations. Apicella and Mattlock solo as well before the final chorus played to the end.
Can’t Help Falling in Love of Elvis Presley fame is uniquely covered by Charlie Apicella & Iron City. The traditional jazz ballad style with Alan Korzin’s brushwork gives Apicella’s solo guitar a subtle bed in which to solo over. As noted in the liner notes, Stephen Riley is absent here.
Cantaloupe Woman seems to tip the proverbial hat to Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island. With the quirky and funky groove, this group plays as though they have lived through the 60s. However, I suspect this is not the case with these relatively young talents. Man, I love listening to Stephen Riley. His sound is traditional and unique both at the same time – what a talent.
Sonny Stitt’s Blue String is a wonderful shuffle played by Korzin on the drums and Mattlock's walking left hand on organ. This gives Apicella and Riley an opportunity to stretch out where they sound like they are having the time of their life! I know I am while listening – can’t stop bouncing in my seat!
Mattlock’s original composition The Shaw Shuffle retains much of the same quality of the other songs here. It is funky with a tinge of Latin flavor. Only the bridge strays from this well-worn path Apicella and Iron City travel.
Stanley Turrentine’s Stanley’s Time begins with Cassales’ and Korzin’s percussion and Riley’s solo tenor. They are joined by Apicella and Mattlock to finish out this appealing Afro-Cuban minor blues. Once again, spirited solos are taken all around and no notes wasted.
What a true pleasure it has been to become better acquainted with the music of Charlie Apicella & Iron City. Each of the members of this group is worthy of further listening. Saxophone players out there will surely enjoy the breath of fresh air which Stephen Riley’s tenor saxophone brings.
You can find out more about Charlie Apicella & Iron City at ironcityjazz.com