Charlie Apicella & IRON CITY: jazz organ trio
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Charlie Apicella & IRON CITY: jazz organ trio

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
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"Sparks reviewed by Mark Gardner"

Young guitarist Charlie Apicella and his trio companions Dave Mattock and Alan Korzin could not have wished for a more sympathetic producer than ace guitarist Dave Stryker, who knows all about this instrumental combination and how it is best recorded. It may have been Dave who suggested the inclusion of that wonderful saxophonist Stephen Riley for five of eight tracks; Stephen and Dave had recorded in just such a set-up a few months earlier.

Riley has one of the most expressive, vocal tones and distinctive phrasing of all the younger tenor players, and his appearances here are a huge bonus. Similarly, the addition of an individual violinist to the opening and seventh selections proves that fiddle can provide useful colour even in such a hothouse context.

Apicella is a lithe, swinging guitarist with an affinity for the contrasting styles of both Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. He combines these influences cleverly while applying his own salt and pepper to the mix. Mattock is a straight-ahead organist, who supports rather than overwhelms his fellow soloists. He avoids the lure of showboating even in his solos.

Among disparate pieces by Grant Green, Lonnie Smith and Lou Donaldson (all master of this genre), there are several hip pieces by the leader and even a strand by Michael Jackson. Each tune fits the band’s needs, offering ample scope for the members’ creative endeavors. Performances are well paced and to the point. An all-around impressive debut by a guitarist of substance operating in ideal company.
- Jazz Journal


"The Business reviewed by John Heidt, Dec. 2011"

This follow-up to 2009’s Sparks
keeps the groove going as Apicella
continues to write and cover songs
with great Blue Note Record feels
that allow fine soloing by himself,
Dave Mattock on organ, and Stephen
Riley on tenor sax. It follows the same
direction, with veteran jazz guitarist
Dave Stryker again supplying the
production.
As a player, Apicella immediately
brings to mind Grant Green. He’s
funky, he’s bluesy, and he’s not afraid
to get dirty at times. He does cover
one Green tune here, “Donny Brook,”
which brings the same finger-poppin’,
danceable feel that Green did to his
music. There is a lot of that on the
record, with percolating funk on the
title cut showing the way. Apicella and
Riley usually state the melody, and
the solos follow. Apicella distills his
solos down to the essentials, although
that’s not to say he plays simply. He
knows what groove he wants, and
once his guitar settles there, it stays
and invites you in. He even manages
to make the old Elvis chestnut, “Can’t
Help Falling In Love,” feel like a song
you’d naturally hear in an after-hours
club, with a lovely solo that strays just
far enough from the familiar melody
to draw you in.
The band covers tunes by Sonny
Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, and Ben
Dixon perfectly, and Apicella’s orginals
give the band the same chance to
show off that the classic jazz tunes do.
The perfect illustration of how great
this band is together is Charlie’s “64
Cadillac.” It has a definite Latin-soul
pedigree, with Riley sounding like
a twisted Stan Getz and Apicella
building a solo that’s both subtle and
forceful.
Apicella and band have that perfect
jazz rapport that allows them to be
tight as hell and play off each other
beautifully. – JH - Vintage Guitar Magazine


"Sparks reviewed by John Heidt"

From the first song on this disc (“Sookie Sookie”), it’s apparent Charlie and the boys are all about the groove. On all eight cuts here, the organ trio and guests like Stephen Riley on tenor saxophone lay down a large track for Apicella and Riley to solo.

Music is written by the likes of Steve Cropper, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Grant Green, Michael Jackson (an extremely cool groove-oriented “Billy Jean”) fit perfectly with Apicella originals. And while the tunes have memorable melodies and grooves, the playing seals the deal; Apicella is a no-nonsense player of unquestioned chops and whose soul drips from each note.

“Blues in Maude’s Flat” epitomizes what a great player should have; Apicella mixes chords and octaves in the middle with a great sense of melody you don’t always get from guitarists when they’re playing a blues. Cuts like the melodic, funky “A Decade in the Making” find him skillfully and soulfully darting in and around the changes. The cut also shows the hand-and-glove feel shared by Apicella and Riley, where they both play the melody before one takes a solo.

Solos and backing throughout the disc show fine use of dynamics, exemplified on “Play it Back,” which lets Apicella deftly mix chords and single-line work on the head before his solo. Meanwhile, Jackson’s “Billie Jean” –an unusual choice for a jazz trio- conveys an obvious tension in its punches and the well-known melody, which shows a certain cleverness, as does the cool vamp by Apicella on the organ solo. This is “organic” music, and Apicella is an exciting young player.
- Vintage Guitar Magazine, May 2010


"Two to Tango"

Guitarist Charlie Apicella plays with two Valley bands: tango and Latin jazz group Cidade, and jazz/funk organ trio Iron City. We recently spoke with Apicella about the challenges of juggling two bands and playing different styles.

Advocate: How would you describe your bands?

Charlie Apicella: Iron City is based on the type of group you may hear in one of the jazz clubs in New York City. It is the classic 1960s organ trio format, and we feature Beau Sasser on Hammond organ. The records of Grant Green are my all-time favorites, and studying his style on guitar is what led me to fronting this band.

Cidade is based on the sound of violin and nylon string guitar. Those instruments have a long tradition in Latin American music. We play tangos for dancing and tangos for listening from Argentina, bossa nova from Brazil, and Latin jazz standards from Cuba and Puerto Rico, etc. I have always had an interest in bossa nova, because guitar is the central instrument in that music. Some of the greatest composers were guitarists: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luis Bonfa, and Joao Gilberto.

I came to the format of performing tango at jazz gigs because it was something different for the band to sink its teeth into. The type of improvisation we incorporate into the tangos is very different from the melodic improv and the advanced harmonic concepts we are exploring with jazz tunes. The improv for tangos is more rhythmic and is solely to keep the people dancing.



What's your musical background/training?

I am studying with New York City guitar master Dave Stryker. This experience is more profound than I can appreciate at this time; he is very forthcoming in teaching me modern-sounding lines and chord voicings, which is giving me training I could not have absorbed any other way. I go to New York every month to his gigs and to his home studio for lessons. His teaching style is based solely on his playing style and I often ask him to demonstrate what it was he played on a certain record, or how he would approach a specific tune. He is a prolific composer and lately I have been bouncing ideas off him and questions I have in my own original tunes.

I had many great experiences as a student at UMass and got to study with Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp. There I learned about history from Dr. Fred Tillis and Dr. Horace Boyer, and those two teachers awoke my love of jazz and the culture which produced it and that jazz is America's classical music.

Are there many similarities in what you're doing between the two bands as a guitarist?

Not only are there similarities, but I feel the two bands are one and the same. Artistically speaking, our intent is the same on every gig. What varies from one night to the next is the challenge of playing tunes the audience will respond to. I let the venue hire which band they feel matches their clientele, and I just keep my eyes open at the gig to make sure we are reaching people. I pride myself in how quietly the band can play while still making a statement.

Our material is varied and we have many tunes that are meant to be played quietly, and this works wonders at gigs where folks are there having dinner and trying to talk to each other. In those situations the audience may choose to listen to you, or may choose to be more passive.

What do you think makes for good jazz guitar playing in general?

What I like is simple: people who sound how they are. You can tell if a person is playing something they were told will work, or if they are playing something because they are saying something. It is a paradox because so much of the jazz language is learned through imitation of those you admire, but you can't imitate the need to make a statement.

What led you to jazz?

I started playing guitar when I was a senior in high school, and I took an interest in jazz because I knew it was difficult! I guess at that early stage I could hear that Wes Montgomery meant something when he played. For me it was a different feeling I got from the Eric Clapton and Led Zepelin I was into at the time. That year I attended a concert of saxophonist Sonny Fortune at the Iron Horse, and I noticed a very strong feeling in my chest when the concert was over. That excitement only grows every little step I take to becoming more competent on the guitar.

Is it strange to play without a bass in Iron City?

We are lucky to have the wonderful organist Beau Sasser. He plays all of the bass parts with the left hand on the organ. This is the established technique for that instrument, and the groove is heavy because the bass lines are not too complicated.

Having another personality in the mix in the body of a bassist would not really add to what we are doing. Now this is a different story with the larger Cidade gigs we do, where I have Alec Derian on bass as well as the organ. Alec has been with us for two years now, and that rapport cannot be matched.

What's on your calendar?

Iron City will be opening for jazz guitar legend Larry Coryell in a couple of weeks in upstate New York, and we will be recording a CD in coming months.

[With Cidade] we have our first studio CD coming out in the beginning of April, featuring Jennifer Isaacs: Last Night When We Were Young. We will be doing a few CD release events in the Valley which will be posted on the website. The best thing is to check www.CidadeTango.com for the itinerary of both bands. There are a number of monthly gigs, so it is easy for folks to check us out. - The Valley Advocate


"Put the Flavor On It reviewed in JAZZ TIMES"

The jazz trio of Charlie Apicella And Iron City show reflections of ‘60s guitar-organ combo based blues with snippets of modern intonations that let audiences know this trio’s voice is in the present. The group’s latest release, Put The Flavor On It, is produced by bandleader/guitarist Charlie Apicella, who also holds the responsibility of arranging all of the tracks. Apicella plays to the grooves, blending his movements with drummer Alan Korzin as organist Beau Sasser deepens the sizzle in their bluesy tones with dark underscoring and propulsive movements that tickle the senses. There is something about the trio’s music that is reminiscent of Hawaiian-based blues bands, California’s psychedelic jazz artists, and New York City’s Blue Note Club’s regulars, though Charlie Apicello And Iron City don’t come from Hawaii, California or New York, but rather from Amherst, Massachusetts.

The trio’s remake of Burt Bacharach’s classic pop tune, “Walk On By” puts an upbeat glint in the gloomy fires, and a salvo of jiggling vibrations and softly beaded nuances in Jerry Butler’s track, “Hey, Western Union Man,” which rinses the number in a trippy aura. The body language in the trio’s music flexes with an array of trippy blues swirls and acid jazz vibrations that draw from the psychedelic era of the ‘60s, but the band infuses it with a modern draft that keeps it fresh like in the trio’s rendition of Dave Stryker’s tune, “24 For Elvin.” The songs don’t sound outdated, though it is noticeable that they speak in a dialect that ’60s blues-jazz musicians communicated with and felt a connection to. The trio does perform several original tracks including Apicella’s piece, “G’s Blues” which features dynamic aerials performed by the guitar chords and Sasser’s organ, and Apicella’s smooth blues serenade, “Delia Soul” which could mollify an angry gorilla to swoon and moon over his lady love.

Charlie Apicella And Iron City are modern day stewards of trippy blues and psychedelic jazz. Their latest album, Put The Flavor On It isn’t just for fans of ’60s blues jazz which permeated through the walls of clubs in Hawaii, California and New York. No, this trio’s sound can be heard in the music halls of New Orleans, the trendy bars of Chicago, or the taprooms of Boston. The trio’s music is more widespread than their counterparts of the ’60s, and speak in a dialect that modern blues fans can relate to and find engaging. - Susan Frances for JAZZ TIMES


"A Life Devoted to Jazz"

From the Greenfield Recorder, Thurs., April 2, 2009 and The Dailey Hampshire Gazette, April 30, 2009
Story by Anita Fritz

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlie Apicella had just turned 16 when he discovered one of the greatest loves of his life: music. "It was when I moved with my family to Greenfield my sophomore year of high school," said Apicella, a local musician and composer whose band, Charlie Apicella and Iron City, will perform in Northampton, New York City and West Orange, N.J., over the next few months.

The performances are part of Iron City's "From NoHo to NYC" 2009 spring-summer tour. Apicella did not start playing guitar until he entered Greenfield High School. He studied with Michael Nix, a local guitarist, and took private lessons from local musician Matthew Kim. Apicella said he had a lot of help along his musical path, especially from his mentor, jazz guitarist Dave Stryker. "I went to UMass, but wasn't accepted into the music program," he said. "I auditioned every semester, but couldn't get into any of the ensembles. I majored in arts administration and Afro-American studies." Apicella kept studying music on his own, teaching himself to play jazz on the guitar. "I got involved at the university's Fine Arts Center in its marketing and development office," he said. "It was a work study." There, Apicella met people who showed him he could have access to music through the business world (booking and marketing). "I got to be a part of that world and I began helping produce shows," said Apicella. "That's where I gained a lot of my experience. Now, I do a lot of the business for my bands."

As Apicella's musical abilities improved, he didn't choose to perform or learn rock songs or popular music - he chose jazz. "My goal was always to be a jazz musician," said Apicella. "UMass facilitated that in different ways." He returned to the university a few years after he graduated and was finally accepted into the music program, but never finished. "Jazz is something you have to study your entire life, from the guitar perspective," he said. "I like that challenge. "The music is much bigger than the instrument you play," he said. "And, there's a tradition behind the music - you have to know that and feel it. You have to fight your way into the lineage. I like that, too."

Apicella said the older jazz musicians find a place for the younger musicians, but the younger must first prove themselves worthy. "I think I've done that," said Apicella. "I'm always striving to be better. I am happy to finally step on stage in New York City before my 30th birthday. I feel many of my accomplishments are self made and I have worked toward the goal of becoming a professional jazz musician since I began playing guitar." Wes Montgomery and Grant Green were, and still are, two of Apicella's musical idols. He refers to the music he loves as "American" music. He said calling what he loves "jazz" is just too narrow a description. "That label limits the scope of the music," he said. Apicella satiates his hunger for business by running his company, CArlo Music of Amherst, while satisfying his appetite for music by playing with Iron City and Cidade. He co-leads Cidade with Amy Bateman. CArlo Music provides musical groups for events desiring live music. Cidade, a tango and Latin jazz band, performs monthly throughout the Pioneer Valley.

Iron City, which plays contemporary jazz, will play May 27 at The Iridium and July 10 at The Fat Cat, both in New York City, and will also play at Cecil's in West Orange, N.J. Iron City performs many of Apicella's original compositions. The band will play at The Basement, 21 Center St., Northampton on Saturday, April 4 at 8 p.m. Apicella and Iron City will release the nine-track CD, "Put the Flavor On It," arranged and produced by Apicella, on Tuesday, April 7. The CD will be available at Iron City gigs, as well as online, according to Apicella, who composed five of its nine songs. Beau Sasser played Hammond organ and Alan Korzin played drums on the CD. Dave Mattock plays the organ with Iron City when the band performs.

The CD has been described by Stryker as "... revisiting the funky sounds of the 60s Blue Note organ groups ..." and John Blake Jr., violinist and recording artist with McCoy Tyner and Grover Washington Jr. describes "... the tight ensemble playing and well crafted solos." "This is, and will always be, my life," said Apicella. Cidade performs monthly at the following: The Sierra Grille, 41 Strong St., Northampton (third or fourth Sunday of every month); The Hardwick Winery, 3305 Greenwich Road, Ware (first Sunday of every month); Cushman Market & Cafe, 491 Pine St., North Amherst (every Sunday).

- The Greenfield Recorder/ The Daily Hampshire Gazette


"very positive review from zzaj.freehostia.com"

Charlie Apicella & Iron City - PUT THE FLAVOR ON IT: & there's lil' doubt that (in addition to some fine energetic jazz), the flavor is FUNKY!
Apicella's splendid guitars join a jumpin' Hammond organ by Beau Sasser & drums by Alan Korzin to transport you to the side of town where you can't stop shakin' those hips! If you can't/won't dance to this, you ain't got NO soul & probably never did have one... I keep thinking about old James Brown tunes like "Lickin' Stick" & the like... stuff that was made to get your groove moving & keep it that way all nite.
Their MYSPACE page (the only place I could find to listen to their tracks) states that their mission is " to keep the people's feet tappin', heads bobbin' & groove, groove, groove... & it's very clear to my ears that this is "mission accomplished". They had me dancing all across my basement studio as I listened through "Put The Flavor On" for the 5th time...
There may be some in the jazz community (you know, the intellectuals) who will say that this isn't "true" jazz... bunk - it's got the SOUL... the spirit... & the (definite) GROOVE - I rate it as MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Visit them at MYSPACE (link above) to get more information & hear samples of their tunes, or purchase (they do it all online only). Rotcod Zzaj

Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj
Zine site: http://zzaj.freehostia.com/

Zzaj Music sites:
http://indieonestop.com/jamroom/bands/647/
http://www.projectopus.com/zzaj
http://www.soundclick.com/members/default.cfm?member=rotcod
http://www.mixposure.com/zzaj/
http://www.archive.org/details/zzaj

Dick's PODCAST: http://rotcod.podomatic.com
- zzaj.freehostia.com


"Sparks reviewed by Chris Spector"

The funky organ trio, Iron City smear their tunes with handfuls of smooth-ruffling blues and grease-sliding soul adorning the band‘s forthcoming album Sparks with an elysian tinting in their soft billowing fields. Fronted by guitarist Charlie Apicella and supported by Dave Mattock on Hammond organ and Alan Korzin on drums, Iron City play sophisticated blues in the vane of Grant Green and Muddy Waters. Their friezes of Americana blues and smooth soul have an urban feel, and bate the listener with easy-riding grooves and cozy homespun harmonies. Featuring special guests Stephen Riley on saxophone and Amy Bateman and John Blake, Jr. on violins, Sparks inspires a mischievous roaming with a spirit that my not know its destination but it enjoys the journey.

With a mix of original tunes and covers, Iron City let their imagination take over with a ribbon of corkscrew saxophone spirals embellishing the title track, and gales of buoyant guitar strings in “Sookie Sookie.” Each track moves to the human pulse radiating positive vibes and emotive surges. The organ acquiesces to the chord movements of the guitar as the horns halo “Caracas” in bouncing swirls. Interchanging movements between the sloshing gallops of “Sweet And Sounded” to the slow hip-swaying strut of “Blues In Maude‘s Flat,” Iron City’s tracks pervade a type of holiest sanctuary propped up by bluesy therapeutic waves gelled in soul-encrusted slicks. The band keeps their seams tight along the chord transitions as the instruments meld into each other and produce a meditative aesthetic.

Charlie Apicella & Iron City make music that keeps peoples feet tapping, their hips swaying and their heads bopping along to the grooves. Their album has an everyday feel combining Americana blues and smooth soul into a mix that is pure therapy for the senses. - Susan Frances JazzTimes.com

Youngsters riding the old skool tip, this guitarist led organ trio captures the funk of an era gone by but makes it readily acceptable to contemporary ears. Keepers of the groove, they know how to rough up smooth jazz and roil a quiet storm taking it to back in the day when a tight groove really meant something. Hot stuff that never fails to keep cooking. Delightful. - CHRIS SPECTOR MIDWEST RECORD - Midwest Record


"Sparks reviewed for Audiophile Voice"

On their sophomore release, Sparks, soul-jazzsters Charlie Apicella and Iron City continue to bring alive the spirit of Apicella's hero, Grant Green. Green's influence is felt throughout Iron City's disposition. The band was named after a Green song and the trio - Apicella on guitar, new member Dave Mattock on Hammond organ and Alan Korzin on drums - mines material associated with Green.

The Northeast threesome has already garnered some fame up and down the East Coast, doing clubs in New York City and other locales and opening for artists such as Larry Coryell. Apicella calls Amherst, MA home but his inspirations are more southern or earthy in nature: Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Lonnie Smith (whom Apicella studies with) and likeminded jazz aces.

On Sparks the group shuffles between originals and well-chosen covers while retaining their core mission of keeping people's feet tapping, heads bobbing and always maintaining a groove. Besides introducing a new keyboardist, Apicella also delivers other touches to the mix by adding tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley on four cuts and two guest violinists to other tracks.

Iron City gets right down to the grits and gravy groove on opener "Sookie Sookie," a Don Covay hit that Grant Green also interpreted. The infectious affair is highlighted by Apicella's carefree guitar work. His disport is busy and cooking. Mattock lies back through most of the song, providing vamps. Violinist John Blake, Jr. offers a solo reminiscent of early Jean-Luc Ponty before Ponty discovered electric violin. Riley lays out a flutey solo as well, his breathy stroll referencing Yusef Lateef's tone, which is appropriate given that Lateef performed with Green. During the six-minute piece Korzin keeps the proceedings moored with his deft drumming.

Green's presence is stronger on a mid-tempo version of "Blues in Maude's Flat," found on Green's second long-player, Grantstand. Apicella and crew preserve a loose, loping feel and churn round an expansive groove, although their arrangement is a much shorter translation, about half as long as Green's foray. Apicella layers a clear-toned solo that evokes Grant, while Riley furnishes a tenderized, bop-tinged sax sound. Mattock's straightforward and swinging organ undertaking is blissful and melodious and he slips in a humorous vamp at the end.

Another Apicella idol is Dr. Lonnie Smith, who recently became one of Apicella's teachers. Iron City tackles Smith's funky "Play It Back," fronted by a James Brown-ish riff. Apicella and Mattock lock into a rooted and relaxed amble. Apicella pulls from George Benson's predilections, who was a Smith alum, while Mattock and Korzin render a solid beat and sustain the rhythmic axis.

Apicella splits his duties between Iron City and the tango/Latin jazz gathering Cidade. That side of Apicella's personality is portrayed on a rollicking take of Lou Donaldson's "Caracas." Riley showcases his prominent technique with some fine phrasing, while Apicella impresses with his direct and well-enacted approach. Mattock also chips in a choice solo break.

Apicella supplies three originals to the eight-cut song list. The soulful title track is notable because it contains Riley's best performance, where he threads together a collection of coiled saxophone turns that are successively echoed by some of Apicella's finest six-string embellishments. The strutting, medium-cool "A Decade in the Making" is a spirited romp accented by Riley's warm tone, Mattock's nimble organ discursions and Korzin's firm backbeat. The up-tempo "Sweet and Sounded" is supported by Cidade violinist Amy Bateman, who contributes a lively solo akin to Stéphane Grappelli. Her extended excursion is an album standout and helps make this record well worth exploring. While none of Apicella's compositions match music written by Green, Donaldson and others, they reveal an ongoing development that will no doubt bear fruit on later Iron City projects.

Iron City concludes with a tribute to the deceased king of pop. While Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" is no stranger to music listeners, it is not a usual part of the jazz spectrum. Apicella, Mattock and Korzin stress Jackson's contagious cadence, accelerating the time signature while avoiding the trap of treating the popular tune as simply an instrumental pop ditty. Mattock drafts a bluesy solo and Apicella emphasizes the melody while at the same time demonstrating his bustling fretwork.

Sparks has some stimulating moments - particularly when violin and sax are used - but overall Apicella and Iron City have not yet broken free of their musical icons to exhibit a unique and fresh soul-jazz vision. The ensemble presentation is well-crafted and tight but lacks the singular edge needed to propel Iron City to a higher level. However, it is evident that this next phase in the group's progression will happen and Iron City will become a noteworthy and memorable assemblage. - Doug Simpson Audiophile Voice - Doug Simpson for Audiophile Voice


"Sparks reviewed by Edward Blanco"

Jazz guitarist Charlie Apicella and his Iron City combo follow up their recent debut “Put The Flavor On It” with “Sparks,” an energetic collection of soulful, R&B and jazz music inspired by the many organ groups that pioneered the sound. Apicella—who studied with organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith and guitarist Dave Stryker—a leader of his organ trio—revives the classic organ trio sound made famous by Jimmy Smith and promoted by saxophonist Lou Donaldson and Dr. Lonnie Smith among others. With his core trio comprised of organist Dave Mattock and drummer Alan Korzin, Iron City explores a new sound by adding Stephen Riely on tenor saxophone and violinists John Blake, Jr. and Amy Bateman to the mix.

The R&B/soulful influences emerge right from the opening two pieces, “Sookie Sookie” and the Apicella original title rack “Sparks.” The guitarist immediately puts on a show racing his fingers up and down the instrument producing crisp sparkling chords enhanced by Riley's able tenor phrasings. Apicella is especially bluesy on Grant Green's cover tune “Blues In Maude's Flat,” and after a Riley joust on tenor, it's Mattock's organ solo that produces the sparks here. In 1993 alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson led his organ quartet in the recording of “Caracas” (Milestone Records 1994) with Dr. Lonnie Smith on the organ and Peter Bernstein on the guitar—with this recording—the guitarist pays tribute to Donaldson with a stunning rendition of the title track reversing roles as Apicella performs the Donaldson lead while tenor man Riley plays the Bernstein solo. The influence of organist Lonnie Smith is also felt as the group plays out a rather funky version of the Smith original “Play It Back,” where of course Mattock is especially pronounced.

The other two Apicella originals that merit mention are “A Decade in the Making” and “Sweet and Sounded,” which features a duel of sorts between the guitarist and violinist Amy Bateman. Perhaps the most unexpected sound on the album comes from the finale, a Michael Jackson tribute of his signature tune “Billie Jean” which sticks true to the melody though spiced up with plenty of organ lines, nice splashy cymbal play and punctuated with dazzling guitar riffs from the leader. With their second outing “Sparks,” Charlie Apicella and Iron City offers an exciting session of varied organ-based jazz—with a fair share of musical sparks of their own—reminiscent of the funky organ trio combos of the past.
- Edward Blanco Ejazznews - Edward Blanco for Ejazznews


"Glowing review of Sparks by Dick Mecalf"

Charlie Apicella & IRON CITY- SPARKS: There's nothing cooler on a laid-back rainy Sunday morning in the Great Northwest than inspiring bluesy jazz like Charlie & his krew play on this CD... we reviewed these guys back in issue #88 , and loved what they did on that album. "Sparks" just smokes the competition... the official release date isn't until March, 2010, but you can find previews around the net, most notably at YOUTUBE ... Charlie's guitar work is excellent, as it was on the first outing, and the other players (Dave Mattock's Hammond organ, drums from Alan Korzin, tenor sax on several cuts from Stephen Riley & guests John Blake, Jr. (violin), and Amy Bateman (violin)) ensure that your energies will be brought to full-tilt! The CD features 3 originals, and my favorite among those was "Sweet and Sounded" (sorry, it appears there are no samples available yet), where Bateman's violin joins in the basics of downhome (yet somehow uptown) funk... it was the opener, "Sookie Sookie", that really caught my ear & captures my vote for favorite... it's a Cropper/Covey tune that highlights Apicella's guitar with sweet Hammond down under... one of the funkiest tracks I've heard (yet) this year! The most notable thing about this grouping is how tight they are together... real pleasure in the listening, from the opening to the closing note... ultimate groove with 21st Century flavor, it gets my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for jazzers who can't go another minute without that funk-driven beat! Their "EQ" (energy quotient) rating is at the top of the scale - 4.99 out of 5.00. Get more information at <http://www.myspace.com/ironcityfunk> Rotcod Zzaj
- Dick Metcalf, http://zzaj.freehostia.com/


"Sparks reviewed by Susan Frances for JAZZ TIMES"

The funky organ trio, Iron City smear their tunes with handfuls of smooth-ruffling blues and grease-sliding soul adorning the band‘s forthcoming album Sparks with an elysian tinting in their soft billowing fields. Fronted by guitarist Charlie Apicella and supported by Dave Mattock on Hammond organ and Alan Korzin on drums, Iron City play sophisticated blues in the vane of Grant Green and Muddy Waters. Their friezes of Americana blues and smooth soul have an urban feel, and bate the listener with easy-riding grooves and cozy homespun harmonies. Featuring special guests Stephen Riley on saxophone and Amy Bateman and John Blake, Jr. on violins, Sparks inspires a mischievous roaming with a spirit that my not know its destination but it enjoys the journey.

With a mix of original tunes and covers, Iron City let their imagination take over with a ribbon of corkscrew saxophone spirals embellishing the title track, and gales of buoyant guitar strings in “Sookie Sookie.” Each track moves to the human pulse radiating positive vibes and emotive surges. The organ acquiesces to the chord movements of the guitar as the horns halo “Caracas” in bouncing swirls. Interchanging movements between the sloshing gallops of “Sweet And Sounded” to the slow hip-swaying strut of “Blues In Maude‘s Flat,” Iron City’s tracks pervade a type of holiest sanctuary propped up by bluesy therapeutic waves gelled in soul-encrusted slicks. The band keeps their seams tight along the chord transitions as the instruments meld into each other and produce a meditative aesthetic.

Charlie Apicella & Iron City make music that keeps peoples feet tapping, their hips swaying and their heads bopping along to the grooves. Their album has an everyday feel combining Americana blues and smooth soul into a mix that is pure therapy for the senses. - JAZZ TIMES


Discography

"The Business" 2011.

"Sparks" 2010.

"Put the Flavor On It" 2009.

Photos

Bio

"I think you will find that "Sparks" will light the artistic fires of the soul and intellect." Heartfully, YUSEF LATEEF

Charlie Apicella is an Eastman Guitars Featured Artist.

"As a player, Apicella immediately brings to mind Grant Green. He’s funky, he’s bluesy, and he’s not afraid to get dirty at times. The perfect illustration of how great this band is together is Charlie’s “64 Cadillac.” Apicella and band have that perfect jazz rapport that allows them to be
tight as hell and play off each other beautifully." JOHN HEIDT, Vintage Guitar Magazine

"Apicella's playing shines...[he] is aware of the straight-ahead tradition, showcasing his Wes Montgomery influence...Apicella's guitar sound is bright and clean, and easily cuts through the huge sound of the organ." TIM FISCHER, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine

"The Business" reached #7 on the CMJ Jazz Top 40 for two weeks in September, 2011.

"Sparks" debuted at #27 on the CMJ Jazz Top 40. It is licensed by STARBUCKS for performance in their 10,000+ locations world-wide.

VIDEOS: YouTube.com/user/IronCityJazz

IRON CITY has headlined at:
• The Iridium, NYC
• Fat Cat, NYC
• Banjo Jim's, NYC
• Cecil's, NJ
• Trumpets, NJ
• Puppets Jazz Bar, NYC
• Chris' Jazz Club, Philadelphia
• Nomad, DE
• The Northampton Jazz Festival, MA
• The Iron Horse, MA
• Revolution Hall, NY
• Bishop's Lounge, MA
• The Basement, MA
• Tammany Hall, MA