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Apfelbaum, Peter (Noah )locked

Apfelbaum, Peter (Noah )locked

  • Barry Kernfeld
  •  and Gary W. Kennedy

(b Berkeley, CA, Aug 21, 1960). American bandleader, tenor saxophonist, composer, percussionist, and pianist. He played percussion and piano from an early age, took up drums while in elementary school, and began piano lessons when he was nine. In 1975 he formed his own improvisation group, the Berkeley Arts Company, and in 1977 he founded the Hieroglyphics Ensemble, which initially consisted of 16 reed and brass players and himself on drums; the following year he added other instruments to form a rhythm section. Having moved to New York state (c1979) he played percussion and drums in Karl Berger’s Woodstock Workshop Orchestra, and he toured and recorded with the group in Europe with Don Cherry as guest soloist (1979). Under Warren Smith (ii) he performed in the Composer’s Workshop Ensemble, and he played keyboards in Carla Bley’s Burning Sensations and worked briefly with Eddie Jefferson. In 1981 or 1982 he returned to the San Francisco Bay area, where he occasionally revived the Hieroglyphics Ensemble. However, the group was mainly inactive until 1987, when Apfelbaum secured a recording contract with Antilles and was commissioned to write for the San Francisco festival Jazz in the City; the piece was performed in 1988 with Cherry again appearing as guest soloist. With Cherry’s band Multikulti, Apfelbaum recorded in 1989 and toured North America, Europe and Japan; he may be seen in the video Don Cherry’s Multikulti (c1995 [filmed 1991 or 1992]).

The Hieroglyphics Ensemble appeared at various international festivals; Apfelbaum’s compositions reflected the varied interests of the group’s members, which included Indian music, Afro-Cuban music, soul, rhythm-and-blues, funk, reggae, and industrial rock, and may be heard on the recordings Sign of Life (1990, Antilles 422-848634-2) and Jodoji Brightness (1992, Antilles 314-512320-2). Around 1994 it disbanded and Apfelbaum formed a sextet, which recorded in 1996 and performed at Yoshi’s and at several festivals; at the San Francisco Jazz Festival he gave a concert in tribute to Cherry, who had died earlier that year. He also worked with Nana Vasconcelos, Cecil Taylor (whose orchestral project for the San Francisco Jazz Festival he helped to organize in 1995), Jim Pepper, the Kamikaze Ground Crew, and the rock band Phish. He was a founding member of the Pagan Love Orchestra, which was led by the multi-instrumentalist Jai Uttal, and joined the Good Time Fairies, a group led by the singer Ann Dyer. In 1997 he recorded with the guitarist Will Bernard.

In January 1998 Apfelbaum settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he re-formed his sextet; among its regular members are Josh Roseman, Charles Burnham, and the drummer Willard Dyson. In addition he formed a duo with Don Buchla, who plays various instruments of his own creation. He reunited the Hieroglyphics Ensemble for a performance in San Francisco in 1998 and for a collaboration with Muhal Richard Abrams at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in autumn 1999. As well as composing for jazz groups, he has been commissioned to write for the Kronos Quartet, the Bay Area Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, and the National Swedish Radio Orchestra.


  • D. Ouellette: “Multikulti: Multi-culturalism that Grooves: Peter Apfelbaum & the Hieroglyphics Ensemble,” DB, 59/7 (1992), 30
  • D. Ouellette: “Tradin’ Fours: Working through Adversity,” DB, 63/9 (1996), 43
  • J. Woodard: “Hearsay: Peter Apfelbaum,” JT, 26/7 (1996), 24
  • B. Kohlhaase: “All that Jazz: Revitalized Apfelbaum and Co. Pick up Beat,” Los Angeles Times (22 May 1998)
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