Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet

Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet
Soul Monster

Delta Groove Music (DGPCD 134)

By Georgetown Fats
July 2009

I may have to reconsider my blues ethnocentrism. With rare exception (namely the late GREAT William Clarke) I prefer my blues to either be from the deep South, or from no farther west than Chicago. With the jazz tinged roots, West Coast blues often provides a Holiday Inn lounge band feel which lacks the duende component which is a major part of both Delta blues and Chicago blues.

From the opening instrumental, Soul Monster is a West Coast Blues epiphany. West Coast is not about the cathartic experience, it is an uptempo infectious musical experience where the endorphins are released on the dance floor.

Piazza’s harp work is legendary, well worth the accolades and platitudes generated in more than 44 years of gigs. Miss Honey Piazza’s left hand is the glue which holds the Mighty Flyers experience. Miss Honey’s right hand - and sometimes, Miss Honey’s feet - offer up the offer up stellar lead work. Dave Kida on percussion, Henry Carvajal on guitars and vocals, and Jonny Viau on bass round out the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet.

On “Can’t Stand to see you go,” over a 12-bar shuffle feel, the listener is treated to heavy doses of Piazza’s harp, which given the tone, resembles the “Mississippi saxophone” sound. On “Cheap Wine,” the band takes the listener for a quick tour of New Orleans. Over the signature New Orleans second line groove, Piazza sings about the origin of the drink of choice for transients and poor college students.

The fourth track is the Big Bill Broonzy classic “Key to the Highway,” which given my previous admission of blues ethnocentrism, clearly proves that just because a band can play a cover or tribute to a great artist does not mean that should play that cover. Piazza’s voice just does not have the grit to carry the emotion in this track. There is, however, a stellar solo by Miss Honey which saves this track from being a total throw- away.

On “Sunbird,” the band is once again back in its comfort zone. It’s another up-tempo instrumental featuring Rod’s distorted harp work and Miss Honey’s barrelhouse piano sound.

The Jimmy Liggans- penned “That’s What is Knocking Me Out,” it is another shuffle with extensive harmonica and piano work. The tune features the best in what Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet offer, with the extensive work on both harp and piano. But it also features what can be an irritant for some. Piazza once again lacks vocal power to take this tune anything beyond the local Ramada Inn Lounge.

On the 8th track, James Moore’s “Queen Bee” is given a treatment by Piazza and the band. With the use of his tube amp and harp mic, Piazza manages to dirty up the vocals enough to challenge his lounge singer vibe. Unfortunately, the bass is up just enough to muddy the entire vocal track.

“Expression Session,” is another shuffle instrumental full of diatonic harp warbles and heavy piano prowess. To quote Dennis Eckersley’s color commentary work for the Boston Red Sox on NESN, this is Piazza and company’s: “sneaky cheese with hair.”

Carvajal steps to the mic on “Talk to Me.” The tune is the sound track to the days of soda jerks, sock hops, and large cars with tail fins. Though it is a period piece, offering little update to the 50s rock sound, this is the best track with vocals on Soul Monster.

It is unfortunate this disk didn’t close on “Talk to me,” or at least back-to-back with “Hey Mrs. Jones.” Piazza’s version of Little Walter’s “You Better Watch Yourself” is a milquetoast resemblance to the original.

Thankfully “Hey, Mrs. Jones,” Latin vibe redeems the previous poor choice in cover. In a rare opportunity Viau is offered an opening to shine with his tenor work, and shine he does.

In closing, for those looking for a little something different for summer barbecues, pick up Soul Monster. The highlights exceed the low lights, and make for a fun and light hearted blues feel.

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