Dubbing his swinging approach "rock-a-boogie," pianist Mitch Woods & His Rocket 88's have revived the jump blues approach of the '40s and '50s. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Mitch Woods moved to San Francisco in 1970. While he was growing up in Brooklyn, he studied both jazz and classical music, but when he relocated to the Bay Area, he primarily played jump blues and R&B. San Francisco guitarist Hi Tide Harris introduced Woods to the joyous jive of Louis Jordan, and the pianist's musical tastes were transformed. Between 1970 and 1980, Woods performed as a solo artist, gigging at a number of local clubs. In 1980, he formed the Rocket 88's, featuring Harris on guitar, and four years later, the band released its debut album, Steady Date, on Blind Pig. The album led to concerts at national blues clubs and festivals, as well as several European dates in 1987. In 1988, Woods & His Rocket 88's released their second album, Mr. Boogie's Back in Town, and embarked on another round of shows in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Three years later, their third album, Solid Gold Cadillac, appeared. Woods & His Rocket 88's continued to tour and perform in the '90s, releasing their fourth album, Shakin' the Shack, in 1993. Jump for Joy was issued in early 2001.
After a five-year recording layoff, Woods returned with the 2006 album Big Easy Boogie, which was recorded with a crew of musicians from New Orleans schooled in the city's trademark style. Arriving in 2008, Jukebox Drive was recorded during a tour of Europe, with the pianist backed by the Spanish swing band the Lazy Jumpers. Released in 2010, Gumbo Blues was another album in the New Orleans style, with Woods performing a set of tunes written by blues legend Smiley Lewis. A concert tour of Turkey by Woods and his band was preserved on the 2012 live album Blues Beyond Borders: Live in Istanbul. Issued in 2015, Jammin' on the High Cs was another live disc, this time recorded while Woods was performing as part of the seagoing blues festival the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Friends Along the Way, released in 2017, collected recordings of Woods performing with a variety of noted blues artists, including Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, John Lee Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, and James Cotton. ~ Bill Dahl & Stephen Thomas Erlewine