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97

Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers: Here and Now

Ed Kopp By

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Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers won the 1999 W.C. Handy Award for Blues Band of the Year. Since the Handy Awards are the blues equivalent of the Grammy's, the award was no small honor for the Los Angeles quintet.

The Flyers swing out in classic West Coast style, and anybody who has caught this band live can attest to their musicianship. Rod Piazza is a top-flight harpist, wife Honey Piazza may be the best boogie pianist in blues today, Rick Holmstrom is an ace guitarist with a '50s feel for his axe, and the rhythm section is rock-steady. If there's a blues band that jazz fans can warm up to, the Mighty Flyers are it.

Here and Now is a better effort than the group's 1997 release Tough and Tender, largely because of its excellent instrumentation. Honey Piazza's incendiary piano work on "First Love" and Holmstrom's rockin' guitar on "Spit Shine" would be enough to carry any blues recording. "Brought Together By The Blues" is a nice shuffling paean to the Piazzas' marriage, and "Goodbye My Lover" is a beautiful '50s-style ballad and Rod's best vocal performance on the album. The instrumental cuts "Strat-O-Spheric" and "Greasy Foot" allow the band to stretch out in fine swingin' style, and they showcase Piazza's incendiary harp.

Still, this album doesn't completely capture the excitement of a Flyers' live performance. I've never been a fully enamored with Rod Piazza's singing, and it's little better than adequate here. Major talent that she is, Honey Piazza could have been featured a bit more frequently. Maybe I'm being hard on this crew, but I've caught them live, and I know their capabilities

I'm certain Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers are capable of someday delivering a classic blues album. Until it surfaces, Here and Now serves as a satisfying sampler from some of the most talented musicians in the blues genre.

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