Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Peter Apfelbaum & the New York Heiroglyphics: It Is Written

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Peter Apfelbaum’s New York Hieroglyphics Ensemble is positively fire-spitting. The band’s recorded debut, It Is Written, is a jazz-meets-Afrobeat affair populated by the likes of Dafnis Prieto, Cyro Baptista, Josh Roseman, Charles Burnham, Craig Handy and Steven Bernstein as well as notable guests Jai Uttal, Trey Anastasio and Malian vocalist Abdoulaye Diabate (the collective personnel totals 26).

Apfelbaum is equally fluent on woodwinds, piano, harmonium and more, and his freewheeling approach to instrumentation fuels these nine original pieces. There are layered electric guitars, thunderously voiced brass and reeds, occasional strings, bata drums, crisp electric bass (Patrice Blanchard), fingerpicked acoustic guitars and other sounds of surprise-such as Norbert Stachel’s piccolo solo and Prieto’s police whistle on “Shotgun Bouquet” and the piano-and-drum break on “Rainbow Sign.”

More than sonic novelty, however, it is the flowering complexity of Apfelbaum’s pen that makes It Is Written a standout disc of 2005. “Song of the Signs,” a multitiered piece with beautifully wrought trombone-and-flute unisons and a poignant Anastasio guitar solo, is a fine example. Another is “Apparation/Projectiles,” the longest track-a riot of unresolved harmony, skronky sax, wah guitars and such.