Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers,
Emergency Situation
(Blind Pig, 2014)

Listening to Rod Piazza's new disc, Emergency Situation, is like time-traveling. In the world of the album, it's about 1954, the time of the classic Chess label Chicago blues. Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and the others are all over Piazza's music. And this is not a criticism: there's no way you can consider these influences to be a bad thing because, as much as these players revere the ones that came before and pay tribute to them, they are their own people, working their own magic on tunes that simultaneously look to the past and to the present and future.

The band -- Moss Honey on piano, Henry Cavajal on guitar, Norm Gonzalez on bass, David Kida on drums and Ron Dziubla and Jim Jedekin on saxes -- can shuffle like crazy, and most of the songs use that beat, sounding like the early Chicago blues bands with a side trip through West Coast jump blues. The sound is infectious, driving and serves to bely the old cliche about the blues being sad music; this stuff radiates joy and good vibes. It swings. It's music to make you move, to get you out of your chair, to drive away whatever's bringing you down.

Song choices are fine. Piazza is not a prolific writer -- he contributes three here, two of them instrumentals -- but the songs he covers show a deep knowledge, as well as an abiding love, for the history of the blues and early R&B. He rescues Amos Milburn's fine "Milk & Water" from near oblivion and brings out all the soul in Johnny Ace's "The Clock." Lee Dorsey's "Ya-Ya" also makes an appearance. His takes on these songs makes them sound fresh and new, again a case of being true to the originals without being confined by them.

If you're already a Rod Piazza fan, you'll want to add this one to your collection. If you aren't, this is a good place to start, and you'll be thrilled to discover that the veteran harp player and band leader has another two dozen earlier albums waiting for you.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

6 September 2014

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