Stone Tone Records – 2014
9 tracks; 49 minutes
Big Apple Blues is a NYC collective of musicians, several of whom have other gigs that they probably call ‘the day job’: for instance, Zach Zunis (guitar) and Jim Alfredson (keys) are part of Janiva Magness’ current touring band. The rest of the personnel is Barry Harrison on drums (replaced on two cuts by Tom Papadotos), Admir ‘Dr Blues’ Hadzic on bass, Anthony Kane on harp, Chris Emenizer on sax and Matt Becker on “effects”, of which more later. The CD was recorded in Brooklyn and produced by Admir. All the material is original and credited to the whole band.
This is an all instrumental concept album, the premise being that it covers a day of life in NYC. The album opens with the first of several sound effects, an alarm call on the I-phone as the band takese band a funky approach to the new day on “Wake Up And Do Something” which offers opportunities for all the front-line players to show their chops. A car engine starting up signals the drive to work on “I-278 Grind” which has plenty of shrill harp and wah-wah guitar well supported by the organ. “Morning Jive” ups the pace at work with more blissed out wah-wah from Zach and energetic harp from Anthony.
A funeral is the setting for “Remembering Eni”, a slow blues introduced by tolling bell effects. The slower pace is welcome after three fairly relentless cuts and there is some smouldering guitar from Zach with horn and organ support but Anthony’s harp is rather histrionic. Tom takes over the drum seat for “Lost In Thoughts” and “Day Dreaming”, two tracks which are supposed to capture the afternoon session at work, both more reflective than the earlier “Morning Jive”. The sound of waves rolling in opens “Lost In Thoughts” with some lovely playing from Zach accompanied by some gentle sax and electric piano; the track builds up in intensity as Zach moves from almost acoustic picking at the beginning to sustained notes later on.
“Day Dreaming” is slightly faster in pace but follows a similar pattern, Zach’s guitar taking a more aggressive approach which is mirrored in Anthony’s harp approach, the horns helping the tune to build up in intensity as it progresses. The pace changes with “Happy Hour” which has a soul vibe with handclaps and a catchy riff whilst “Unwind” finds our character back home relaxing after the day’s labours; some ringing guitar chords open this one and it follows the previous track in taking a soulful approach which is accentuated by Jim’s organ stylings. The album closes with the title track “Energy” which returns to the upbeat approach with Jim’s swirling organ and Zach’s frenetic lead riff launching another of Anthony’s trademark harp solos. Some aeroplane sound effects open and close the track, even a fake PA announcement hoping we “have enjoyed this flight”.
This album was something of a mixed bag for this reviewer; some good moments, some not so good, often quite a long way from straight blues.