Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff may be the best known of The Texas Horns, a trio of horn players who have contributed to numerous fine recordings. Kaz brings his tenor sax and harmonica along with John Mills who plays baritone and tenor saxophones and Adalberto Gomez on trumpet to “Blues Gotta Holda Me” (VizzTone). Recorded in Austin in 2014 the three are joined by guitarist Derek O’Brien, and drummer Barry Frosty Smith along with a variety of guests who include Nick Connolly, Marcia Ball, Ronnie James, Johnny Nicholas, W.C. Clark, and Anson Funderburgh.
There is a mix of instrumentals and vocals (most of which are taken by Kazanoff) on a recording that breaks no new grounds perhaps, but makes for enjoyable listening and likely to be a favorite for dancers. The music is well played and there are plenty of strong horns solos. The standout vocal is a soulful one from W.C. Clark on Kazanoff’s original “Cold Blooded Lover,” while Marcia Ball does a credible cover of the Smiley Lewis classic recording “Go On Fool,” with the horns providing an unusual Mariachi tint to the performance.
Musically, the rendition of “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is better than Kazanoff’s bland vocal. The performance sounds like it was based on the Big Joe Turner rendition from classic “The Boss of the Blues” album on Atlantic. He takes a terrific tenor sax solo on this. Also his vocal on the Percy Mayfield classic “Lost Mind” lacks the grit of Mayfield’s original as well as the brilliance of the late Johnny Adams’ rendition. Finally, as much as he tries, he can’t bring the ebullience needed on a rendition of Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia.” Here he is company with others like Muddy Waters and Gatemouth Brown who have faltered on this.
The instrumentals are fun, finger popping tunes with the exception of a terrific rendition of “People Get Ready.” The opening “Soul Stroll” kicks this off with a nice shuffle groove while Mills’ “Kick Me Again” has a march like feel with some robust playing from Mills on the baritone and O’Brien on guitar. “Rippin’ and Trippin‘“ is a hot number for the jitterbuggers while the funking rendition of Hilton Ruiz’s ”Home Cookin’” has soulful grease from Connolly on the B–3 along with some tough playing from each of horns.
“Blues Gotta Holda Me” may not be a compelling recording, but it certainly is a fun and entertaining recording that is a welcome change of pace for blues listeners.
I received my review copy from Vizz-Tone. Here is a video of them performing.