Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers – Live At Fleetwoods
Big Mo Records – 2017
CD1: 8 tracks; 47 minutes
CD2: 9 tracks; 60 minutes
Now here is a great surprise, a vintage Mighty Flyers set from 1994, previously unreleased. Recorded at Mick Fleetwood’s short-lived club in Alexandria, VA, this is the same band that released Live At BB King’s and the CD makes a good pair with that set, having an almost completely different set list. The band at that point was Rod on harp and vocals, Honey Piazza on piano, Alex Schultz on guitar, Bill Stuve on bass and Jimi Bott on drums, for many fans the strongest incarnation of the band with outstanding quality in every department, Jimi and Bill providing a real pulse to the music that allows the three front line players to fly. Although there is no introduction to the band the two discs appear to cover the entire show, Disc 1 closing with the usual “Rockin’ Robin” and a promise that they will be back; Disc 2 also includes a shorter “Robin” and an encore designed to send the crowd away buzzing.
Disc 1 opens with “Talk To Your Daughter” (attributed to Jimmy McCracklin) which provides a solid start to the show, a relaxed pace with solos for everybody, allowing Rod to introduce the band to the audience. Audience noise on the discs is limited and unintrusive but the appreciation for Rod’s efforts in his extended solo can be heard. An early piece of Little Walter follows in “Aw Baby” before a superb “Hydramatic Woman” (Joe Hill Louis) which is a close relative of Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88” but also seems to show the influence of The Red Devils’ “She’s Automatic”, a band that Rod was sure to have heard back in LA. Alex gets an instrumental guitar feature with his own “Westside Lex”, reminding us of what a great player he is and that we don’t hear him often enough these days. After the Rn’B of “Hear Me Knockin’”, Honey is featured on one of her legendary boogie piano and drum duo pieces, “The Stinger” – fantastic stuff! Rod pays tribute to his mentor on an extended, semi-spoken “Tribute To George Smith” before the usual set closer, “Rockin’ Robin”.
Disc 2 has two extended jams: a rocking take on Big Joe Turner’s “Low Down Dog” swings terrifically with Alex and Honey taking extended solos before Rod takes the tune home with impressive staccato drums from Jimi; Percy Mayfield’s slow blues “Are You Out There” is the vehicle for a long harp exploration that also finds Rod using the harp mike to sing the opening line of each verse, creating an impressively loud sound. Rod’s “Love And Money” is labelled as running nearly 11 minutes but in fact the track also includes reprises of “Hear Me Knockin’” and “Rockin’ Robin” that signals the end of the show, the exciting “Tangled With A Woman” then appearing as the encore. Honey’s twinkling piano work is exceptional on Rod and Honey’s “Bad Bad Boy” and “T-Bone Jumps Again” is another feature for Alex’s sublime guitar playing. Rod returns to Little Walter on “Mellow Down Easy” and a relaxed take on “Key To The Highway” works well. Roy Brown’s “Ain’t No Rockin’ No More” is a definite highlight with Rod on top form vocally and the whole band rocking superbly (check out Rod’s lung-busting single note effort in his solo).
The sound quality is excellent throughout the two discs and this is a must-buy for all fans of Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers.