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Charlie Apicella and Iron City - The Business (2011)

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Charlie Apicella
There's an irresistible swagger to old-fashioned, grease-popping soul jazz records, something so far removed in this hidebound era of button-down classicists. Everything about it—the left-hand blasts of organ, the scrappy guitar riffs, the flame-kissed sax retorts—just says: Party.

Charlie Apicella and Iron City's The Business, newly issued by CArlo Records, is no different. From the initial title-track romp, with guitarist Apicella and organist Dave Mattock doing their best Dynamic Duo-era Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith, to the friendly rhythmic joys of “64 Cadillac" (courtesy of percussionist Mayra Casales) to a ridiculously charming take on the old Elvis Presley vehicle “Can't Help Falling In Love," this merry record is as approachable as it is welcome.

Apicella's expected turns into jazz standards are well chosen, from a driving take on Grant Green's “Donny Brook" (Apicella brilliantly approximates the guitarist's hard-edged bluesy outbursts from his Blue Note period) to full-blooded swing through Sonny Stitt's “Blue String" to a propulsive bit of conga-driven ecstasy on the closing “Stanley's Time" by Stanley Turrentine, as tenor man Stephen Riley plays with a jagged, spitting aggression. Apicella makes an even stronger connection to the Blue Note legacy later, when he covers label house drummer Ben Dixon's memorable soul hit “Cantaloupe Woman."

“Ironcity," the third of Apicella's originals after “The Business" and “64 Cadillac," is a more straight-ahead number, and thus doesn't necessarily have the same pitched excitement. Still, it gives the assembled group a terrific opportunity to toss out some impassioned bop licks, and the tune turns into an entertaining blowing session. “The Shaw Shuffle," written by Mattock, moves with a sensual boldness behind drummer Alan Korzin's second-line beat.

Performed with flair and spirit, and without getting tangled up in too many cliches, The Business recalls the glory days of soul jazz—back when every record sounded like its own dinner party. It is, as it should be, just a whole lot of fun.

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