By Doug Levine
Who knew swing and boogie-woogie were so popular in Istanbul? Mitch Woods, who’s been playing piano around the world for decades, knows firsthand that Turkey loves the blues. In fact, his new CD “Blues Beyond Borders” was recorded live in Istanbul, a concert with so much energy you could almost hear the floor shaking.
Mitch Woods may not be a household name in the US, but he and his band the Rocket 88’s were treated like royalty during his tour of Turkey in October 2010. A seasoned traveler, he was taken by surprise at the overwhelming reception. “It was just such an incredible experience,” he says. “We went to 20 cities, played 26 shows, a culture that I really didn’t know anything about, and how accepting they were of the music. I realized this music goes beyond borders — political, geographical and religious.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951, Mitch became a fan of swing and blues after hearing records by boogie-woogie piano greats such as Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. After a brief stint at the University of Buffalo, he moved to San Francisco in 1970, where he became a mainstay of that city’s blues scene.
It’s a third city, though, that Mitch calls his second home: New Orleans. “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: African, African-Americans, Spanish, English, Caribbean, and it all mixed into this gumbo. And blues came out of that.”
“Blues Beyond Borders” comes with a DVD of Mitch’s concert in Istanbul, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the band’s trip across Turkey. Here’s a clip from the show, a tune called “Boogie Woogie Bar-B-Q.”