Jump for Joy!

Marin County pianist Mitch Woods and his band, the Rocket 88’s, have been keeping the jump blues flame alive for over 20 years and have a handful of well-received Blind Pig recordings to prove it. Normally a quintet (sax, guitar, bass and drums), here the 88’s are beefed up by six-man horn section, and, although that cuts down on Woods’ soloing, it gives the music a punch that harks back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, when bands like Roy Milton and His Solid Senders, Amos Milburn and His Chicken Shackers, Joe Liggins and His Honey Drippers and, on a smaller scale, Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five were filling dance halls and the airwaves with their energetic music.

Woods wrote all the songs and, except for the occasional topical reference (e.g., to Lorena Bobbitt on “Not a Bad Part of My Life (To Be Good),” a delightful number that shifts back and forth from a rumba to straight 4/4), they could easily have been part of Cab Calloway’s repertoire. Indeed, “Palm Tree Tie,” with its “Hi-de-hi-de, hi-de-ho” refrain, memorializes the flamboyant Calloway.

This is a solid disc from end to end: The playing (and arranging) is first-rate, as is the sound, and Woods’ relaxed vocals are another plus. Woods calls his music "rock-a-boogie" and displays his boogie-woogie chops on the disc’s two blues—"Jive, Mr. Boogie" and the title track.