Vizztone Label Group 2015
13 tracks; 51 minutes
Mark ‘Kaz’Kazanoff has played sax and harmonica on many albums over the years, particularly on Texas recordings. For the past fifteen years he has joined forces with two fellow Texas horn players for live shows but this is the first time the three have recorded and the disc is a keeper. Kaz plays tenor and harp and handles some of the vocals, John Mills plays baritone and tenor saxes and Adalberto Gomez plays trumpet and flugelhorn. Kaz has clearly built up an impressive contacts list as the three horn players are joined throughout by Derek O’Brien on guitar and Barry ‘Frosty’ Smith on drums, the bass duties being shared between Ronnie James, Johnny Bradley and Roscoe Beck. Nick Connolly adds keys to several tracks and guests include Anson Funderburgh, Marcia Ball, WC Clark, Danny Levin and Johnny Nicholas. The tracks are a pretty even split between originals from within the band and covers.
The music ranges far and wide wherever horns play a role. Opening instrumental “Soul Stroll” is soul-inflected and wears its Memphis influences on its sleeve, Anson Funderburgh adding some typically understated flourishes. Dave Bartholomew’s “Go On Fool” is a natural fit for Marcia Ball’s vocal and piano as the band sets up a measured New Orleans beat and Kaz takes one of many fine tenor solos. Kaz steps up to the mike for “You’re Driving Me Crazy”, a song once covered by Roomful Of Blues and typical of 1930’s swing with all three horn players getting solo space. John Mills’ “Kick Me Again” adds Danny Levin’s piano and features Derek’s guitar and John’s bari sax on an instrumental that brings us forward to the present day with elements of funk. WC Clark’s unmistakable voice leads us on “Cold Blooded Lover”, a song he first recorded on his 2004 album Deep In The Heart; it’s a pounding Texas blues with author Kaz on harp and Derek hitting an Albert Collins stride in his solo.
Percy Mayfield’s “Lost Mind” cools things down a little with Kaz’s relaxed vocal perfectly suiting the ensemble horn approach, Adalberto’s muted ‘growling’ trumpet solo fitting the style like a glove. Earl King’s anthemic “Sing, Sing, Sing (Make A Better World)” takes us on a second trip down to New Orleans and the interplay between the horns at the beginning is superb; Nick Connolly delivers a fine vocal and plays some solid NO piano on this one. Kaz’s “Rippin’ And Trippin’” rocks along really well with his tenor solo an outstanding feature placed alongside more excellent piano from Danny Levin. The title track is a co-write between Kaz and Johnny Nicholas who is featured on piano alongside all three horns and Derek’s guitar on a seriously rocking tune. Two well-known songs are then covered, both in interesting versions: Curtis Mayfield’s powerful “People Get Ready” is given an instrumental reading with outstanding solos from Roscoe Beck on bass and all the horn players but a special mention has to go to John’s bari solo; Fleecie Moore’s “Caldonia” has been covered by everyone from Louis Jordan to BB King and is always great fun to hear, this version being in big band style with Nick’s piano and Johnny Bradley’s bass pumping the rhythm, Kaz doing a good job on the familiar lyrics. Probably the most obscure cover here is “Home Cookin’”, a tune written by Hilton Ruiz, a Puerto Rican pianist who was a mainstay of Roland Kirk’s band, an instrumental with a touch of Latin jazz that again provides solo space for all three horn players. Another of Kaz’s instrumental tunes “Spanky’s Twist” takes us back to the early 60’s when dances like the twist set the world alight and this pastiche of those tunes works well with Nick on B3 at the heart of things, providing a cushion for all the horn players to take exciting solos.
Whilst one understands the financial logistics involved with larger bands it is most regrettable that we don’t hear and see as many horn-driven bands now as in ‘the good old days’. But never mind, for 51 minutes we can put this disc on and think about how great it would be to see this ensemble play these tunes live. Highly recommended!