Charlie Apicella and Iron City - Sparks (Carlo Music, 2009)
Mining a rich vein of music pioneered by the likes of Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell, the grits 'n' gravy soul jazz that was popular in the 50's and 60's in the small clubs of cities like Newark and Philadelphia is the inspiration of this talented group. Apicella is the leader and guitarist, with Stephen Riley on tenor saxophone, Dave Mattock on organ, Alan Korzin on drums, and John Blake, Jr. and Amy Bateman guesting on violin for a track apice. The band keeps the groove at the forefront and the music works quite well, I was originally surprised to see violin on a soul-jazz date, but it works really well, adding either a extra solo voice or an interesting accompaniment in place of the bass, the texture the group achieves is quite enjoyable. The Green influence comes to the front on "Blues In Maude's Flat" originally cut on Grantstand (my favorite Green album) the organ driven turn gets an excellent version driven by Apicella's solid and propulsive soloing. Lou Donaldson's greasy "Caracas" has a nice rhythm and some solid soloing from Riley. and The finale is a nod to the recently deceased king of pop with a funky version of "Billie Jean" that is actually quite effective. The music here is an unpretentious blend of soulful R&B and jazz, skillfully played. Fans of organ and guitar combos and mainstream jazz should find a lot to like.