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Bluesharp great Rod Piazza faces 'emergency situation' on new CD

Rod Piazza’s return to San Francisco’s Blind Pig label has resulted in the legendary West Coast blues bandleader/harp player’s most exciting album in years.

"Emergency Situation"
Blind Pig Records

“It’s a better sound than I’ve gotten in the last three or four albums,” says Piazza. “I used a friend of mine’s studio, and he used his guy at the mixing board and it turned out really bitchin’.”

Emergency Situation, from Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, reunites Piazza with Blind Pig, for which he released the 2004 CD Keepin’ It Real and the full length concert video Big Blues Party. In addition to longtime Flyers stalwarts Henry Carvajal (guitar), David Kida (drums), Norm Gonzales (bass) and, of course, wife Honey Piazza on piano, Piazza enlisted saxophonists Ron Dziubla and Jim Jedeikin.

“I needed guys who could read charts and play their asses off!” says Piazza, noting that all the Emergency Situation tunes are first takes.

The titletrack is a Piazza original, “kind of an [jazz tenor] Eddie Harris kick,” he says. “It’s a little outside the blues, but a pretty good commentary on what’s going on today in the blues world—a bit of a flat tire.”

The tire metaphor is particularly apt in that when he’s at home in Riverside, Calif., “I’m usually hanging around in the garage screwing around with cars and listening to old tunes on compilation CDs--and locking into what I think is good to do. The originals I just make up on the spot, really: One night I was talking on the mic and happened to say ‘This is an emergency situation,’ and said, ‘Man! Write something behind that,’ and made it up on the spot in the studio.”

The album also features New Orleans R&B great Lee Dorsey’s hit “Ya-Ya,” and a rip-roaring Piazza harmonica instrumental, "Frankenbop."

“That one’s inspired by Red Prysock [R&B] sax instrumentals,” says Piazza. “I’m definitely on his kick, especially his fast instrumentals, and tried to put something together on the harp following his lead and make it my own.”

Tour-wise, Piazza and the Flyers have a number of weekend dates and festivals in the U.S. and Canada through the summer, “then it’s back to Belgium and Germany in October,” he says, “and looks good the rest of the year.”

Meanwhile, the Chevy Impala fan is also in the garage working on a 21-window VW Microbus.

“Guys out here are lowering them,” Piazza says, “and I got into that and have been messing around with them. I also have a bitchin’ ‘62 VW convertible and a ‘63 Corvair Greenbriar ‘window van’ that’s slammed on the ground and has candy apple green rims. It’s out there!”

A lifetime longboarder, Piazza also is still out surfing three or four times a week when he’s around.

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