When you really boil it down to the one thing that’s honestly missing from the mainstream music of today; it’s true and straight from the heart (and soul) musicianship. It’s something you can not fake, and it comes from a relentless dedication to your instrument and the music, and many hours, days, months, and years of practice and striving for perfection. And HOLY COW; the quintet band of Big Apple Blues has musicianship in spades with their new album ‘Manhattan Alley’ (released June 19, 2018).
We have: Zach Zunis on guitar, Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic on bass, Barry “The Baron of the Blues” Harrison on drums, Jim Alfredson on Hammond B3/keys, Anthony Kane on harmonica, and guest muso Chris Eminizer on saxophones. But, what’s this? No vocals?! DON’T NEED ‘EM! ‘Manhattan Alley’ is a completely instrumental album chock-full of grooves, Blues, Soul, Funk, and fun times. Each player here is thoroughly in sync with each other, while no one in particular is trying to hog the ball. Everyone gets their time to shine across the recording, which, as it should be mentioned, was recorded in an “old-school” style in one room. This is a great way for the group of performers to gel and enhance the energy of the sound.
The current Big Apple Blues band formed from what was to begin with ‘Barry Harrison & Big Apple Blues’, but around 2013 they had an itch to get more creative, rather than play standard straight-ahead Blues. Using the Blues as their foundation they went for something more unique and blended genres to create their 2014 album ‘Energy’, heavily inspired by the city of New York. What really stood out though was that special recipe of genres together which was greater than the sum of its parts. That “special recipe” is thrillingly continued here with ‘Manhattan Alley’.
Many tracks remind me of the tight and energetic sounds of bands like Huey Lewis & the News, and the Tower of Power, but more-so injected with a solid helping of Chicago and West Coast Blues. Overall, I think the whole album is one of my favourite releases of the year, but to name a few track highlights, I’d go with ‘You Gotta Start Somewhere’ (great opener), ‘SDW’ (conveys Eminizer’s sax-soulfulness), ‘Steamroller’ (it’s exactly that, it rolls ahead, it flattens anything in its path), and ‘Subway Rumble’ (that groove and the B3 is irresistible).
It’s incredibly refreshing to hear a new album like ‘Manhattan Alley’ from Big Apple Blues because bands which rely on sheer musical skill and feel are few and far between. Groups like Cookin’ On 3 Burners, The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, and Big Apple Blues are keeping this instrumental Blues and groove fan very very happy.
Author: Ethan Burke – The Blues Source