Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jukebox Drive reviewed by Mark Thompson

Jukebox Drive
Mitch Woods featuring the Lazy Jumpers
El Toro Records
12 tracks/47:54

Mitch Woods is a fine piano player and singer who has spent his career focused on rhythm & blues music with a boogie beat. His last project paid homage to the New Orleans R&B tradition., featuring several key musicians including Herb Hardesty on sax and legendary drummer Earl Palmer. His latest release finds him traveling to Barcelona, Spain where he enlists the help of the Lazy Jumpers. The group consists of Mario Cobo on guitar, Ivan Kovacevic on doublebass, Blas Picon on drums, harmonica and backing vocals plus Dani Perez on sax. These guys are the real deal, effortlessly laying down the sounds of a by-gone era with style and spirit.

The title cut is a Woods original that opens the disc in fine fashion with Mitch telling the tale of a cool cat who is adducted by aliens. Mitch wrote half of the tunes on the disc and every one of them sounds just as authentic as the better-known covers that fill out the project. The next cut, Joe Liggins classic, “Drunk”, gives Perez a chance to blow some cool sax licks.

Mitch crafts a mini-tribute to boogie-woogie music with the next three tracks. “Boppin’ the Boogie” is in overdrive right from the start, the Jumpers rocking hard behind Woods’ booming vocal. Cobo contributes a strong guitar solo before Mitch takes over with a piano solo that rocks the house, taking no prisoners !! The band slows the pace down a bit for the late night swing of Louis Jordan’s “Blue Light Boogie”. Woods full, deep voice easily conveys the sensuous nature of the lyrics while Perez lays down another exciting sax solo.
Then it’s full-speed-ahead on “Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man” with Woods and Perez trading several energetic solos.

“Blues Hangover” is another original tune with more hot piano licks from Woods. It’s followed by another romping Woods tune, “Boogie Woogie Bar-B-Q, “ with the band cruising along in high gear and Perez blowin’ a hard-hitting solo on his saxophone.

Woods revisits New Orleans with a rollicking version of Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina” before turning John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” into an up-tempo piano rave-up over a crisp guitar line from Cobo. “Parchman Farm” provides additional proof that Woods and the Jumpers can excel at the slower tempos, too. The disc closes with the instrumental “Mitch’s Boogie”. Mitch is all over the keyboard, pumping out a series of dazzling sequences over a driving shuffle beat from Picon.

This certainly ranks as one of the finest recordings of Woods career. There isn’t a weak cut on the disc. Woods provides convincing proof throughout the disc that he is a master of the piano. The Lazy Jumpers lay down superb accompaniment that brings depth to each performance. It is hard to think of anything that could have made this stellar recording better than it is. A rousing triumph for Mitch Woods and a reminder that in the right hands, the past can still be a vibrant source of musical pleasure.

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