Big Apple Blues’ 2015 album “Energy” was a “creative fusion of instrumental blues, soul, funk and rock”. This new album “Manhattan Alley” continues to celebrate the genre defying soul of the city that never sleeps.
The five principal band members include Hammond B-3 player and keyboardist Jim Alfredson whose performance credits include Organissimo, Root Doctor, Greg Nagy, and Janiva Magness; guitarist Zach Zunis who worked with William Clarke and Janiva Magness; harmonica ace Anthony Kane who cut his teeth with Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, Luther Tucker, and Sam Lay; Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic who worked with Mason Casey and Jason Ricci, bass; and Barry Harrison, a deep in the pocket groove master on drums, who played with both Johnny “Clyde” Copeland and Shemekia Copeland. Guest musicians include Chris Eminizer (Paul Simon), saxophones; and percussionist Kevin Jones (The Isley Brothers).
“Manhattan Alley” salutes the inhabitants of Tin Pan Alley, where the songwriters and publishers dominated popular music. The groove is so fine that the music is comparable to that coming out of Memphis or New Orleans. These ten original instrumentals remind us of the sixties and bands like The Ventures, Booker T and the MG’s, The Meters, Hugh Masekela, The Safaris, and The Ramsey Lewis Trio. “Recorded old-school in a single room”, the music has “the energy of the city of millions, striving, dreaming, beating hearts”.
The funky opener “You Gotta Start Somewhere” is grounded by the fabulous rhythm section and features the saxophones of Eminizer; solos follow by guitarist Zunis and keyboardist Alfredson. “Happy” features Harrison, “The Baron of the Blues”, and his big beats and he is again joined by soloists Alfredson and Zunis.
The Big Apple Blues quintet of Harrison, Zunis, Alfredson, Hadzic, and Kane are fabulous throughout the recording. In reality however they are a septet as Eminizer and Jones are always present on citified grooves with names like “Hudson Breeze”, “Steamroller”, and “Subway Rumble”.
This thoroughly enjoyable recording is the instrumental album of the year.