Friday, November 23, 2012

David Maxwell -- "Blues In Other Colors" and Mitch Woods -- "Blues Beyond Borders: Live In Istanbul"

David Maxwell and Mitch Woods are both really good piano players, and they both released albums within two weeks of each other, and these albums each push the boundaries of the blues in interesting and different directions. So I thought I'd try to talk about both of these fine albums together in one review.

So let's start alphabetically, with David Maxwell. He is an award winning piano player, with a Grammy and several Blues Music Awards. He has been playing piano for over 25 years, mostly in the Chicago style, backing some of the greatest and well-known musicians in the blues. He has played with Freddie King, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Bonnie Raitt and Hubert Sumlin. So this is a guy who knows his way around the piano, and this time he is trying "a melding of traditional blues with music from other countries to which I've been drawn."

Maxwell is backed by Harry Manx on Mohan Vina and Guitar, Jerry Leake on Indian and West African Percussion and Balafen, Fred Stubbs on Turkish Ney, Boujmaa Razgui on Oud and Moroccan Raita, Troy Gonyea on Guitar, Eric Rosenthal on Drums, Marty Ballou on Double Bass, Paul Kochanski on Electric Bass, and Andy Plaisted on Congas. Together Maxwell and these great musicians make a beautiful album chock full of Eastern textures and African rhythms alongside some traditional blues--and the reader should notice there are no vocalists listed. It's a 13 track instrumental release, and it's beautiful. There are moments when it sounds like The Beatles, and moments when it sounds like Chicago blues, and moments when it sounds like you're in a whole other country, and moments when it sounds like nothing you've ever heard before anywhere. But every moment here is absolutely gorgeous. On my internet radio show, Bruce's Texas Blues, at I've played a few tracks from this disc--specifically "big Sky" and "Cryin' The Blues" and "Rollin' On," and the response was encouraging. Those are the most traditional sounding blues songs here.

In short, I think it's a really important cd, and a really good cd. As Maxwell says in the liner notes, "Relax and enjoy the trip!"

Now let's shift gears and talk about Mitch Wood's new release, "Blues Beyond Borders."  This one features Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s, recorded in Istanbul, Turkey. Woods is one of the premier boogie woogie piano maestros anywhere, and this release is a CD and a DVD of that tour. In the liner notes Woods writes about how the Republic of Turkey is a secular nation with 99% Muslim population that straddles East and West..... and how Woods saw themselves as "musical ambassadors, able to cross cultural, religious and national borders that most people cannot." It looks like Woods played shows that stuck pretty much to the great boogie woogie music he has been playing for years--a mix of well-seasoned originals and traditional songs, jump blues, swing and New Orleans Rhythm and Blues. Woods' piano and vocals are backed by The Rocket 88s: Amadee Castenell on sax, Cornell Williams on bass, Adam Gabriel on guitar, and Larry Vann on drums, with everybody on backing vocals. The CD contains 14 songs, the DVD contains 18.  The concert feels like the band and the audience had a great time--the playing is tight and loose at the same time, the set list inspired, the audience joyful and enthusiastic. I remember way back when Eric Clapton did a live album from Japan and the Japanese audience sang along on the chorus of the song "Cocaine." In English! They might not have known all the lyrics, but they were having a good time. On this cd Mitch Woods and The Rocket 88s are playing before a lively and excited audience in Istanbul.

In the liner notes Mitch Woods writes "as they say in Turkey--"Bastan basa Blues" --the blues is everywhere!"  

You can buy these cds at:
David Maxwell:
Mitch Woods:

No comments: