BIG APPLE BLUES
Manhattan Alley
(Stone Tone Records)

 

The instrumental R&B / blues band known as Big Apple Blues keeps the feel good energy flying high with their 2018 album called Manhattan Alley. By day, a well respected doctor based in the NY/NJ area, Admir Hadzic doubles both as bass player and co-producer of the five piece Big Apple Blues, which also features a great lineup of musicians including Zach Zunis (electric guitars), Barry Harrison (drums), Jim Alfredson (keys) and Anthony Kane (harmonica). Back in 2015, mwe3.com reviewed the band's CD Energy, and the 2018 CD release of Manhattan Alley keeps their high-flying, soul-funk, instrumental sound moving right along. The soulful Big Apple Blues approach to funky, groove-based instrumental music should find a home among a diverse group of music fans, including but not limited to fans of organ-based soul / funk / jazz but Manhattan Alley is clearly not a jazz album, per se. Speaking to mwe3.com about the band's unique approach to the blues and instrumental rock, and a comparison to the best 1960s instrumental R&B groups on the fabled Stax label, keyboardist Jim Alfredson explains, "I consider Big Apple Blues akin to Booker T. & the MG’s for sure. All of us have worked as sidemen backing up singers across genres like jazz, blues, R&B, etc. just like the MG’s and the Bar-kays did back in the '60s. Once you remove the singer from the equation, the result is something different, something special. We play a lot of numbers with vocals in our live shows, but on our albums the instruments themselves are the vocalists. That makes us distinctly different from many other blues bands." Perhaps the coolest thing about Big Apple Blues is the rock-solid chemistry between the band members who seem to revel in their unique approach to loud, funky, guitar-centric blues. Instrumental rock music fans with open ears will embrace the diversity of Big Apple Blues and their feel-good NYC vibes. The city that never sleeps, New York City has a trademark band with a sound to match, and they’re called Big Apple Blues. www.bigappleblues.com




mwe3.com presents an interview with
Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic and Jim Alfredson of
Big Apple Blues


mwe3: What’s the latest news on Big Apple Blues? How’s the NYC music scene doing these days and how does Big Apple Blues fit into the current scene? Have you performed concerts outside NYC in other states and how about spreading the BAB sound to other countries?

Admir and Jim: The Blues music scene in New York has much changed with only one blues club remaining open. Yes, Big Apple Blues has performed outside NYC many times including in Las Vegas, Belgium, France, Hong Kong, Austria… The audiences really dig the Big Apple Blues Sound, even though we play a lot of instrumentals mixed with traditional blues favorites. Vocals are so predominant in most popular music that it might be strange to the average listener but they warm up to our sound quickly!

I’ll never forget performing in 2017 in Gent, Belgium at the Missy Sippy club. We played “Rock On” from Manhattan Alley and after the song ended the audience kept enthusiastically singing the main guitar riff. It felt really great that they connected with that piece despite no vocals.

mwe3: Is there a leader of the band? How was the album produced as it’s a shared production between band members Admir Hadzic and Jim Alfredson? Who else is key to getting that authentic instrumental blues sound?

Jim Alfredson: Big Apple Blues is Admir’s (Dr. Blues) initiative and he is certainly the leader but he always points out that our success is the one of the brotherhood in music and beyond and he is always open to suggestions. Guitarist Zach Zunis is really important to the sound of the band. He is a blues player first and foremost and that rawness comes across in his playing. Drummer Barry Harrison is a stalwart of the NYC blues scene and without his groove the band would definitely not be what it is. Besides, Baron is an awesome singer and does most of the vocals in the band.

mwe3: Do you consider Big Apple Blues to be a blues band playing in a kind of jazzy groove or is BAB a jazz group playing blues, or even is there more a kindred spirit between BAB and say 1960s instrumental soul and R&B bands such as Booker T. And The MG’s? In that regard, BAB is very unique on the current scene.

Jim Alfredson: I consider Big Apple Blues akin to Booker T. & the MG’s for sure. All of us have worked as sidemen backing up singers across genres like jazz, blues, R&B, etc. just like the MG’s and the Bar-kays did back in the 60s. Once you remove the singer from the equation, the result is something different, something special. We play a lot of numbers with vocals in our live shows, but on our albums the instruments themselves are the vocalists. That makes us distinctly different from many other blues bands.

mwe3: How would you compare the sound of the new Manhattan Alley album with the Big Apple Blues album from 2015, called Energy? Has the Big Apple Blues sound changed or evolved over the past few years, how many albums has the band released and what year was the band founded?

Admir and Jim: We think that Manhattan Alley is an extension of Energy. The two go hand-in-hand. We’re not attempting to reinvent the wheel, we’re just playing music that feels good and makes you tap your feet. We also feel that as the band has gotten a lot more comfortable with the Big Apple Blues sound, that Manhattan Alley, while not necessarily better, it is more mature musical statement. Big Apple Blues has issued 5 CD’s all in all; Brooklyn Blues (2010), Live at O’ Flaherty’s (2012), Energy (2014), The Baron of the Blues 2015) and, Manhattan Alley (2018).

mwe3: What was it like making the Manhattan Alley album as it was cut live in the studio? Was any editing or overdubs done or added or is Manhattan Alley just the way it sounded live on the floor when the album tracks were laid down?

Admir and Jim: Very little editing was done; we did overdub some percussion here and there but what you hear on the album is what happened in real-time in the studio. The band performs best when we play as if it is a live show. There is nothing wrong with using modern studio technology to achieve perfection, but the blue was never about perfection. As an audio engineer myself, I find that jazz and blues is always better when it’s live so we try to re-create that live feel in the studio.

mwe3: What directions are you planning to go in next as far as writing for future albums, concerts and performances and how can you further bring Big Apple Blues to the attention of music lovers world wide?

Jim Alfredson: JA: This past April of 2018 we did another marathon studio session in NYC and laid down roughly 13 new songs, this time with the percussionist in the studio with us, so no overdubbing. The session was engineered by myself and my good friend Glenn Brown, who is a world-class engineer based in Lansing, MI. I’m really excited about that new material not only because it sounds amazing, but because the songs themselves have a slightly different feel.




 

 
   
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