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Mitch Woods Takes His 'Blues Beyond Borders'

  • Doug Levine

Mitch Woods

Mitch Woods

Pianist Mitch Woods has been taking his swing and jump blues around the world for decades. One of Woods' most heartwarming receptions came from the many fans that came to see him play in Turkey.

Woods spends more than half the year on tour, with many of those dates in countries around the globe. Some are solo concerts and others feature his band The Rocket 88’s, who toured Turkey for five weeks in late 2010.

“It was just such an incredible experience," Woods said. "We went to 20 cities, played 26 shows, and a culture that I really didn’t know anything about and how accepting they were of the music. So, I just kind of realized this music goes beyond borders; political, geographical, religious. This is much better.”

Woods studied classical music and jazz before catching the blues bug in his native New York. He says he was drawn to a 1930s and 1940s style of blues known as boogie-woogie.

“I was in college and I started playing and sitting at in little jams in Buffalo where I was going to school," he said. "And people would say you sound like some of the boogie-woogie guys. And I said, ‘Oh yeah, what are their names?' and I found out these names: Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis, and I went out and bought all the records I could find. That kind of got me going. Then I was just like, 'Oh yeah, this is stuff I really like.'”

“A lot of my music comes out of New Orleans, and I think so much of this great music came out of there because it was such a melting pot," Woods said. "You had African, African-Americans, Spanish, English, Caribbean, and it all mixed into this gumbo. And blues came out of that. A lot of it went to the Delta, there’s a big history of it, and then going to Chicago and other major cities from there.”

Woods’ triumphant tour of Turkey was recently released on a CD titled “Blues Beyond Borders,” featuring his four-man backup band The Rocket 88’s. It includes a DVD of their concert in Istanbul, as well as behind-the scenes footage of their trip across the country.