Mitch Woods

Blues Beyond Borders: Live In Istanbul

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This live CD/DVD combo was recorded at the Efes Blues Festival in Turkey in 2010 and shows Mitch Woods and his band in top form. This time the Rocket 88s include sax man Amadee Castenell from Allen Toussaint's band, John Cleary associate Cornell Williams on bass, Rhythmtown Jive guitarist Adam Gabriel, and legendary Oakland drummer Larry Vann (Elvin Bishop, Charles Brown, Merl Saunders). The band roars through a collection of Woods classics and carefully selected covers, many of them with a New Orleans flavor. Woods gives every member of his team a chance to shine, and keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. The jumpin' jive of "Down Boy Down" suggests a late-night juke joint with its exuberant energy. "Long, Lean & Lanky" brings to mind an unheard track from a Specialty Records session in the '50s, and allows Woods to show off his improvisational chops and Elvis imitation. "Mojo Mambo" dips beep into New Orleans funk and features Vann's syncopated second-line timekeeping. The keystone track is a medley that combines the Professor Longhair standard "In the Night" with "Lambaya Puf De," a hit by the late Barış Manço, Turkey's biggest rock star. Woods opens with a straightforward reading of the Longhair tune featuring Castenell's lyrical improvisations, bluesy guitar from Gabriel, a funky bass solo from Williams, and Vann's extended drum solo. When they shift into "Lambaya Puf De" the crowd goes wild. Gabriel sings the lyric in his best Turkish and adds some tasty Turkish-influenced fills to the arrangement. The DVD shows footage of the same set that's on the CD, interspersed with scenes of the band on the road. Woods narrates and marvels about the warmth and hospitality of the Turkish people. It's interesting to see the crowd's reaction to the band's version of "Lambaya Puf De" and to note how young and Western the crowd is. The extras include more home movie-style footage of the band visiting the sights, eating in restaurants, and folk dancing with other customers. There's a profile of the Turkish road crew and a slide show of photos taken by bandmembers. It's all pleasantly interesting, but the real attraction is the music Woods and the band lay down and the living proof of the old cliché that music really is a universal language.

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