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Ron Aprea Sextet: Remembering Blakey

Edward Blanco By

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Legendary New York alto saxophonist Ron Aprea is recognized as much for his skills as an arranger, composer, record producer and band leader as he is known for his superb musicianship. On Remembering Blakey, Aprea brings to the fore all of his talents in churning out a monster album that pays homage to the leader of the famed Jazz Messengers. Unlike most tribute recordings, however, it is not a reprise of the drummer's music; none of the pieces can be directly attributed to Art Blakey. Instead, Aprea designs a repertoire of five standards, a couple of originals, and five compositions from long-time friend and hard bop bassist, Paul Brusger. The intent, of course, was to convey the fire and brimstone of the hard bop boss Blakey, captured so well here through the selection, arrangements and finesse play of the veteran musicians assembled for the album. Inspired by wife and singer Angela DeNiro, and originally envisioning a big band recording, Aprea decided to scale back the personnel and record with a sextet that includes three horns, thus allowing the saxophonist more solo space.

Brusger's fast-paced "Flown The Coop" starts the fires burning with an infectious intensity, as the saxophonist is joined by tenor player Jerry Weldon and renowned trumpeter Joe Magnarelli to blow the house down. Vince Cherico introduces "Minor Setback" as the group goes in to a catchy funk rhythm, bolstered by the leader's steamy solo on another hot tempered number. The fire subsides significantly on the following standard "My Foolish Heart," where bassist Tim Givens sets up a beautiful alto solo from the leader, the only horn player on this track, which also features the first balladic piece of the recording.

The Oliver Nelson standard "Latino" reignites the hard bop fire, and features George Hooks on percussion, with vibrant interplay from the horn section on what is a gyrating piece of music. The sound is more subdued on the mid tempo and delicious "In A Minor Funk," and quite restrained on the Gordon Jenkins tune "Goodbye," allowing the saxophonist another delicate solo spot on the album's second ballad. The up tempo waltz "Transition Blues" brings pianist Cecilia Coleman to the lead, while the last Brusger composition, "Andrea's Delight," perhaps offering the catchiest melody of the recording, highlights Aprea's favorite performance of the album.

Other outstanding tunes not to be missed here are the two Aprea originals: "Sophia," and the blistering finale "For Pete's Sake," nor the reinvigorated renditions of Ray Noble's "Cherokee" and the Jimmy Davis piece "Lover Man." In summation, one heck of an album deserving space in every jazz fan's collection. There's no question that Ron Aprea's tribute to the great Art Blakey is a powerful musical statement that says far more about Aprea then it could ever say about Blakey. Somehow, I don't think the drumming icon would mind.

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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