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Live Volume 1/Cheap Thrills
(Rose Leaf Records, 2005 #RL001)
Review Date: October 2007
by Bill Halaszynski
Drummer Jimi Bott has provided the whip cracking
backbeat to some of the most significant West Coast
Blues recordings of the past twenty years. As a
member of Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers he appeared
on my personal favorite of their recordings, Live at
BB King’s Blues Club (1994). He was a part of William
Clarke’s Alligator releases Serious Intentions and
Groove Time as well as Johnny Dyer’s Listen Up and
Junior Watson’s debut, Long Overdue. Bott also manned
the kit on three Mark Hummel CDs. Beginning as a teen
with Hummel’s Soul Surviviors throughout his stints
with Harman, Piazza and Clarke to his current gig with
Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds Bott has
backed the cream of the crop among the left coast’s
harmonica masters. Name dropping aside, its Bott’s
obvious ability to find and mine the groove that has
drawn him to the attention of such world class talent.
Live Volume 1/Cheap Thrills is a collection of Jimi
Bott’s work with many of the above mentioned
performers and more. It’s an audio scrapbook that
takes the listener into the clubs where the magic was
made, capturing some stellar moments that would have
otherwise been lost in the foggy memories of the small
group of lucky folks in attendance. Most of the
action is centered around Rod Piazza and The Mighty
Flyers who appear with and without their leader in
various forms throughout. The collection opens with
Piazza ripping through the registers on “The
Eliminator” while Bott and crew keep the momentum
rolling without jumping the tracks. Quite an
accomplishment indeed, considering the sheer
overpowering quality of Piazza’s breakneck runs.
Guitarist Junior Watson gets a well deserved star turn
on “That’s What You Do To Me,” from 1987 showcasing
solid vocals that are just now getting a full time
workout in his solo act. Long considered one of the
premier guitarists backing Harp players, here he shows
evidence of a full bag of tricks more than capable of
stealing the spotlight when the opportunity arises.
Another guitar showcase is “Peter Gunn,” by Mark
Hummel & The Blues Survivors with special guest Luther
Tucker. The former James Cotton sideman lights it up
with some fleet single note leads and scorching runs
pushed forward by Bott’s driving drums. Recorded in
’85, this is the set’s oldest track and a fitting
tribute to the under recognized Tucker.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds pop up twice here. “I’d
Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy,” is old school,
horn driven soul recorded in 2002 at The Rhythm Room
in Phoenix AZ. Title track “Cheap Thrills,” is a Bott
penned rocker that fits into the T-Birds canon quite
nicely and features hard driving guitar by Kid Ramos
as well as Gene Taylor’s trademark honkytonk piano
runs. For someone best known backing harp players,
Bott showcases a lot of great guitar on this disc
also. Curtis Smith and Mike Schermer add to the six
string heroics with a solid eight minute take of the
Albert Collins chestnut “Frosty,” recorded at The
Rhythm Round Up held annually in Watsonville,
California. Alex Schultz gets the honor of longest
track, however, with the nearly ten minute long “Jam
Up,” featuring one of my personal favorite Flyer units
including Honey Piazza and bassist Bill Stuve.
Schultz is another West Coast guitar burner who
combines tasteful licks with the ability to take off
into the stratosphere at any given moment.
The drummer gets some on a series of showcase pieces
that also spotlight the redoubtable Miss Honey’s
Boogie Woogie keyboard work. “The Bumble Boogie & The
Nutrocker,” kick off the run with Stuve and Schultz
sitting in as Honey artfully blends boogie and
classical riffs backed by Bott’s almost military back
beat. “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing),” and “Tribute
to Gene, Buddy & Louie,” are piano/drum duos that
rattle the rafters while paying homage to the Big Band
era and its drum masters. I have fond memories of
these numbers from the several times I’ve seen the
Flyers and it’s nice to have some personal favorites
included. These cuts also reinforce the influence
that Big Band Jazz and Swing had on the West Coast
sound. The set concludes with Piazza returning to the
helm on Little Walter’s “Ah’w Baby,” which emphasizes
the band’s heart and soul after all the instrumental
virtuosity that proceed it, a nice closing touch
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