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Ron Aprea: Remembering Blakey

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Legendary drummer Art Blakey, he of the eponymous The Jazz Messengers is regularly attributed with saying: "Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." Well, if that's the case, this superb recording from saxophonist Ron Aprea and his cleaning crew certainly left the studio spotless, and themselves, to be somewhat crude but oh-so accurate, assless.

This is a very fine recording—a cooker—in the hippest and hottest of Hard Bop traditions. With a dozen selections from speedballs ("Flown the Coup") to jazz standards ("My Foolish Heart") to slick Aprea ("For Pete's Sake)" and Paul Brusger originals ("Andrea's Delight"), the recording channels some of Blakey's best Messenger magic. Aprea and front line trumpet sidekick, Joe Magnarelli light fires here that would have Smokey the Bear passing wood. Tenor man Jerry Weldon gladly throws gas on the inferno, as well.

Aprea's saxophone has a genuine quality to it—full of emotion and flair. While he can blister through changes with impeccable skill and creative juice, his ballad performances are stunningly beautiful ("Lover Man"). While obviously a Bird and Art Pepper devotee, Aprea's passionate involvement with melodic and lyric line is uncanny and eerily reminiscent of the late, great Charlie Mariano. Magnarelli, who's the perfect teammate for Aprea's fire- brand energy, is at his best here—and he's always good. With a solid sound, great chops and a no-nonsense grabbing of the changes, Magnarelli is constantly surprising—line after line, searing and soaring with boundless energy, inspiration and skill.

Much can said about the terrific rhythm section. These are the chefs that cook this spice fest up. Pianist Ceclia Coleman, bassist Tim Givens and drummer Vince Cherico drive the frontline relentlessly when required and always tastefully on the slower selections.

If there is any drawback here, it's a very minor one: the background arrangements at times are a hair superfluous. Now that might be a nit- pick, since the solo playing is so captivating, no hot sauce on them is needed.

Aprea and team can be exceptionally proud of this standout recording. It's one of this year's best. Blakey, who was "Our Father" to many privileged to pass through his "University," would certainly give these performers his imprimatur on their diploma.

Track Listing: Flown The Coop; Minor Setback; My Foolish Heart; Latino; In A Minor Funk; Goodbye; Transition Blues; Andrea's Delight; Sophia; Cherokee; Lover Man; For Pete's Sake.

Personnel: Ron Aprea: alto saxophone; Jerry Weldon: tenor saxophone; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Cecelia Coleman: piano; Tim Givens: bass; Vince Cherico: drums; George Hooks: percussion (4, 5); Jerry Sokolov: trumpet (7).

Title: Remembering Blakey | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Early Autumn Productions

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