Monday, March 06, 2017

Mitch Woods And His Rocket 88’s Shakin’ The Shack
Blind Pig

San Francisco pianist Mitch Woods and his bay area jump band, the Rocket 88’s, serve up another helping of jump blues mixed in with some Professor Longhair inspired rockers. A two-handed pianist rooted in boogie woogie and post war jump blues piano, he is also a capable, if unexceptional vocalist. Woods’ Rocket 88’s are a solid band with two fine saxophonists, and Derek Irving’ s guitar. This is at least his fourth album and is comprised of a set of originals mostly patterned after the jump blues of the past. There are echoes here of Ray Charles, Professor Longhair, Louis Jordan, Larry Williams, and Amos Milburn, and if Woods doesn’t reach the level of these past masters, his performances are still quite good. The best track is the superb Cryin’ For My Baby, a slow blues reminiscent of Charles Brown’s Black Night. Not everything is based on classic jump blues. Zydeco the Boogie is a rocking zydeco number although but the lyrics about mixing zydeco and boogie ignores the fact Zydeco long ago incorporated elements of boogie woogie. The closing track, Bonin’, is a feature for guitarist Irving who turns in a T-Bone Walker styled performance. This is Mitch Woods’ most consistent album as he continues to help keep jump blues alive.

This review originally appeared in the January-February 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 188). I likely received a review copy from Blind Pig. Here is Mitch over 25 years later with a band including the late Herb Hardesty at the 2011 New Orleans and Jazz Heritage Festival.

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