The Fall of 2012 saw the birth of Apfelbaum's newest band, SPARKLER.

SPARKLER is shown rehearsing in San Francisco in Episode 4 of Natalie's Bakery (featuring Jill Ryan).

With Apfelbaum on piano and keyboard-bass and featuring longtime collaborator and fellow San Francisco Bay Area transplant Will Bernard on guitar, the group also includes Bay Area natives Natalie Cressman (trombone/vocals/bass), Jill Ryan (alto sax/flute/vocals) and Willard Dyson (drums) along with Australian-born Barney McAll (keyboards/percussion). With all of the members currently based in NYC, the band has been playing local shows and will make its California debut this July, appearing at High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA July 4 & 5, Fillmore Jazz Festival in SF July 6 and Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz on July 8.

As Apfelbaum recently told Alicia Savoly of Sensible Reason:

"The idea for SPARKLER came from my desire to have a stripped-down band which would focus a bit more on vocals than my other group, Hieroglyphics, which is usually 12-14 musicians and is mostly instrumental. There's more of an emphasis on songs, and an even greater helping of rhythm. I'm interested in making dance music which combines heavy grooves and unusual tonal combinations with offbeat lyrics. Groups like Sidestepper (from Colombia), DJ Dolores (from Brazil) and Balkan Beat Box appeal to me because of how they fuse folkloric elements with electronic dance music like dub and drum n' bass. So those are some of the influences. And I've found that real life has given me a lot of material for songs."
"I wanted horn players who could also sing, so it was natural to ask Natalie and Jill to be in it since they both sing and play at a really high level. Natalie has been playing with me in Hieroglyphics and other bands for about six years now (since she was 15.) Her dad, Jeff Cressman (who played in the Bay Area version of Hieroglyphics and now plays with Santana) and I have worked together in various projects since we were in elementary school. Jill I first heard a few years ago when I did a workshop at her high school in Novato, CA. Barney and I toured together in Josh Roseman's various bands and with the Groove Collective. Willard I've known for years and played with in various situations together - he was the first drummer in my NY Sextet when I first moved here in the late 90's. And Will is just one of the finest guitar players out there, and he's also one of my oldest friends. We hadn't gotten to play together that much in the last few years because we'd both been involved in a lot of other projects so I had to get him up in the mix too."

Of the new music, Apfelbaum states that it inspired by "feelings, symmetry, the earth's rotation, and the secret oils that drive the grass".