Mitch Woods – A Tip Of The Hat To Fats
Blind Pig – 2019
17 tracks; 51 minutes
Pianist and regular Blues Cruise piano bar host Mitch Woods is no stranger to New Orleans or to Jazzfest but in 2018 the festival organizers asked him to dedicate his show to the recently departed Fats Domino and Mitch responded with a show that incorporated several of Fats’ best known numbers. Mitch’s ‘Rocket 88’s’ for the occasion was a who’s-who of New Orleans players: John Fohl (Dr John) on guitar, Cornell Williams (Jon Cleary) on bass and Terence Higgins (Tab Benoit) on drums, plus a horn section of Roger Lewis (founder of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band) on baritone, Amadée Castenell and Brian ‘Breeze’ Cayolle on tenor (both veterans of Allen Toussaint’s band).
The show opens with Mitch’s “Solid Gold Cadillac” before the horns are featured on Wynonie Harris’ “Down Boy Down”. Mitch dedicates his tune “Mojo Mambo” to Professor Longhair and there can be fewer songs more typical of Louisiana than “Crawfishin” on which Mitch encourages the audience to make crawfish gestures.
Of course a live album will retain some of the spoken intros and it could be argued that there is a little too much of that here but, on the other hand, it helps to appreciate the timing of the festival so soon after Fats’ passing, well captured in Mitch’s remarks that introduce the Fats section of the show. “Blue Monday” starts us off, Dave Bartholomew’s famous tune well played by the band with an excellent horn arrangement; Mitch introduces the band either side of “Jambalaya” (with a storming bari solo by Roger) which is as frequently associated with Fats as it is with its author, Hank Williams, and surely no tune represents Fats’ legacy better than “Walking To New Orleans” with Mitch’s piano underpinning a relaxed version which also includes a superb tenor solo by Amadée.
After the Fats section Mitch concludes the show with two songs that show off his fine piano skills to the max: the tune that gives the band its name, Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, in a rocking, foot-tapping version, and a classic boogie-woogie tune, “The House Of Blue Lights”, originally by Don Raye and Freddie Slack but also covered by the Andrews Sisters.
Overall a fun CD with plenty to enjoy: a fine band with exciting horns, a nostalgic trip back through some Fats Domino hits and a typically exuberant performance by Mitch.