Itâ€™s hard to imagine a more fitting stage for pianist Mitch Woods and his hand-picked New Orleans Rocket 88â€™s band than the Jazz & Heritage Festivalâ€™s blues tent. Though he was born in Brooklyn, and came of musical age on the West Coast, his New Orleans influences flow through him as he consecrates the stage with jump blues, boogie-woogie and swing. Woods and his musical colleagues are deep in their element, and their element is deep in them, swinging tightly through both original material and covers of Wynonie Harris, Clarence Garlow, Hank Williams, Jackie Brenston & Ike Turner, and as the albumâ€™s title signifies, Fats Domino.
Woods opens the set with his own â€œSolid Gold Cadillac,â€ with drummer Terence Higgins quickly setting everyoneâ€™s toes tapping and the three-piece horn section flexing its muscle. Woods exhorts the audience to acknowledge the band as he rolls out the boogie-woogie piano and sings with infectious joy. The saxes offer both punctuation and hot solos, including a stellar outing by the legendary Roger Lewis on a rousing cover of Hank Williamsâ€™ â€œJambalaya.â€ Guitarist John Fohl adds sizzling licks and the rhythm section alternately lays back in second-line grooves and spurs the band forward.
Woods is both studied and artful as he pays tribute to Professor Longhair with the original â€œMojo Mambo,â€ and tips his hat to Fats Domino with the Imperial classics, â€œBlue Mondayâ€ and â€œWalking to New Orleans.â€ The audience responds with enthusiastic appreciation throughout the set, and Woodsâ€™ song intros add context to the deep dish helping of entertainment. Thereâ€™s clearly nowhere else that Woods, his band and the audience would rather be than sharing this music with each other; and after listening, you may find yourself booking a ticket to the next gig. [Â©2019 Hyperbolium]