Peter Apfelbaum’s jazz odyssey


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Forget six degrees of Kevin Bacon. It only takes two or three steps to connect Peter Apfelbaum to a mind-bogglingly far-flung array of musicians and ensembles otherwise connected only by a promiscuous disregard for genre conventions.

The Berkeley-raised, Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist is in town for a performance Thursday at the Mint with Tulsa’s Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, playing baritone saxophone on the band’s politically charged “Race Riot Suite.” Long before Apfelbaum started performing with JFJO as a special guest however, he shaped the band’s wide-open concept.


“Peter’s Hieroglyphics Ensemble was one of the first jazz albums anyone ever gave to me,” says JFJO pianist Brian Haas, referring to the sprawling, stylistically expansive band Apfelbaum founded by drawing on a prodigious generation of improvisers from Berkeley High School. “Our original drummer was a huge Deadhead, and he was at some shows where Hieroglyphics opened. Apfelbaum is one of my earliest influences.”

By coincidence, Thursday’s opening act is Moksha, a groove-centric experimental rock quintet that’s earned an avid following in Las Vegas. The band hired Apfelbaum to write and play the horn arrangements on its new album “Here To Go” and it’s a safe bet he’ll be sitting in with them at the Mint (Moksha also opens for the Funky Meters at West Hollywood’s House of Blues on Oct. 28).

Apfelbaum continues to lead a New York version of Hieroglyphics, but the saxophonist, keyboardist, percussionist and composer has been busier collaborating with everyone from calypso icon Harry Belafonte and Cuban pianist Omar Sosa to trumpeter Steven Bernstein and Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto (who was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship last week).

Apfelbaum first heard an earlier incarnation of the Jazz Odyssey about 10 years ago at the Knitting Factory in Tribeca, and he knew immediately that the young band fit easily in his orbit. “I liked them right away,” he says. “Their music had this assertive kind of energy, an intensity and passion that’s all too rare.”

Read more on the ‘Race Riot Suite’ in Arts & Books.

-- Andrew Gilbert