Charlie Apicella: Celebrating the Blues

May 5, 2022

Guitarist Charlie Apicella, according to Vintage Guitar Magazine’s John Heidt, “immediately brings to mind Grant Green. He’s funky, he’s bluesy, and he’s not afraid to get dirty at times.” When Apicella performs at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts in Toms River, NJ, he will be playing one Green tune that he “recently discovered. It is a true down home delta blues chord progression which I will be doing as a duo with Don Braden on tenor sax.”

That won’t be the only blues-oriented piece in the concert, part of Grunin’s Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon series. The repertoire will also include “Black Eye Blues”, written for Ma Rainey by Thomas Dorsey and two compositions from the late multi-reedist Yusef Lateef’s Flute Book of the Blues, featuring Braden on flute, Avery Sharpe on bass, and Carmen Interre on drums.

Lateef was Apicella’s first music teacher when he was a student at the University of Massachusetts. Sharpe, best known for his association with the late pianist, McCoy Tyner, appeared on seven of Lateef’s albums.

“One of my favorite musicians is Ma Rainey,” Apicella added, “and my transcription of her classic ‘Black Eye Blues’ is one I play on tenor banjo while Don Braden plays soprano saxophone in the style of Sidney Bechet.”

Braden last appeared at the Grunin Center in October 2018, playing music from his Creative Perspective Music album, Earth Wind and Wonder, featuring jazz interpretations of the music of Earth Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder. His latest CPM album is Chemistry, recorded with bassist Joris Teepe and drummers Louis Hayes and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts.

Interre spent several years as the drummer with the late guitarist Pat Martino. In his DownBeat review of Martino’s 2018 HighNote album, Formidable, Michael J. West wrote that, “The core trio does magic together on ‘In a Sentimental Mood’, drummer Carmen Interre outdoing them all with his beautiful brushwork.”

DownBeat’s Matthew Kassel, in his review of Apicella’s 2019 Oa2 album, Groove Machine, described him as a guitarist who “had devoted himself to a kind of historical reenactment,” seeking to “channel an era of American music when hard bop and r&b reigned . . .”

AllAboutJazz’s Don Phipps described Groove Machine as serving up “a gumbo of styles that run from New Orleans blues and Chicago funk to Motown and New York bop. The combination makes for a ‘groovy’ listening experience — road music that will keep the head nodding and the mind trucking.”

The New Jersey Jazz Society is a proud sponsor of the Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon series. To order tickets, log onto or call (732) 255-0500. Tickets will be sold in socially distanced pods. Masks are encouraged but not required.

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