Twenty-five years ago, while still a senior in high school, Peter Apfelbaum assembled the 17-piece Hieroglyphics Ensemble, which counts Joshua Redman, Benny Green and Steve Bernstein among its alumni. Since then, the saxophonist/pianist/percussionist has played with everyone from Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry to Harry Belafonte to the Grateful Dead, which makes him and his new septet, Sparkler, a perfect fit for the digital-only MOD Technologies label run by fellow poly-stylist Bill Laswell.
Three very different versions of the title track are part of MOD’s Incunabula Series, which is in keeping with Laswell’s penchant for melding jazz improvisation, global grooves and electronic effects. “I Colored It In For You (Pt.1)” comes out with elephantine Afrobeat horns, led by Apfelbaum and Jill Ryan on saxes and Natalie Cressman on trombone, with the two women doubling vocalists. Aaron Johnston from Brazilian Girls provides drum programming next to Williard Dyson on the skins and jazz ace Will Bernard nails the guitar fills. Apfelbaum, the composer, says the tune is about the “act of creating art and the desire to give it away,” and you can feel the sway between the intense and the carefree.
“I Colored It In For You (Pt.2)” is more acoustic- and pop-oriented, with a rubbery bass and more airspace beneath the vocals. Laswell remixes a third version that nods to the influence of trap music, dropping out the early horn surges but clearing room to feature Cressman’s trombone solo later in the track. All are solid but the first track is the keeper — another unpredictable yet gilded gem in Apfelbaum’s wonderful, albeit beneath-the-radar, resume.