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Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns: Passion, Talent and Tenacity

By Mariah Fleming

Cold Shott & the Hurrican Horns, image by Ray Bowen

This Saturday November 5th at 7:00 pm, Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns celebrate their 20th Anniversary with a CD release party for their impressive new release “SOULutions” at the Rhythm Room. It’s not a stretch to say that in the last two decades, Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns, Arizona’s award winning blues band, has left an outsize musical footprint. No matter where you call home, chances are excellent that you can turn on the radio and hear their music.

Their great, horn-driven sound can be heard on numerous stations in the United States, including on the nationally syndicated series “Blues Deluxe.” Internationally they’re heard all across Europe, from France to Finland, England, Ireland, Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Argentina and Japan. And these are just the ones they know about. They have been covered in Living Blues Magazine, Blues Review and a host of other publications.

The eight piece group cuts an indelible groove with rhythm section members Rich Brydle on rhythm and lead guitars, Tim Finn doing lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Music Director Tony Flores on bass guitar and lead vocals, Dale Loyola on drums and vocals and Pat McDonald playing a throbbing keyboard and vocals. The sizzling horn section features Frank Blanco on trumpet and flugelhorn, Keith Kuczynski on tenor and alto sax and Tim Matteson on baritone sax, alto sax and vocals.

In addition to outstanding talent, passion and tenacity are the linchpins of Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns. Founder and manager Ted Kowal died in a car accident when he was driving home from their 2002 July 4th gig. When Arizona blues lovers lost Ted Kowal in 2002, the band was set to record their second CD, “If You Got the Blues,” live at the Rhythm Room at the end of July. They had a heart wrenching decision to make.

“We asked ourselves ‘how do you replace Ted?’ Well, you don’t. You can’t!” Brydle told me. “But afterwards, sitting around the kitchen table, the band decided to continue the recording we were working on. We knew that’s what Ted would want us to do” Brydle said. So they recorded “If You Got the Blues” with legendary Arizona singer Small Paul Hamilton, who recorded “Funky Broadway” with Arizona’s Dyke and the Blazers in 1966. Dyke and the Blazers are inductees into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. Recorded live in October 2002 at The Rhythm Room, the powerful CD is a gem.

Cold Shott & the Hurricane Horns with Ted Kowal and Paul Hamilton, image by Ray Bowen

The history of Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns is a storied one. Originally formed by Kowal in Mesa, AZ in 1990, The Cold Shot Blues Band made its mark in the Phoenix area by backing beloved Chicago blues legend Chico Chism. Kowal always had a love for the music of greats like B. B. King, Buddy Guy, Delbert McClinton, Wilson Pickett and Tower of Power. In the beginning of the 90’s, Kowal reformed The Cold Shot Blues Band to include horns and powerful lead vocals. Kowal invited Brydle to join the band in 1996. The double ‘t’ in ‘Shott’ came a few years later.

In 1995 nationally known singer Leah Santos who’d had a busy career as background vocalist with Ted Nugent, Ambrosia and Vixen in their heyday, had decided to chill in Phoenix. At a 1995 Cold Shot gig at The Blue Note, she jumped up to sit in with the band. It was an immediate fit. Santos had an incredibly powerful voice. She knew her stuff. “We were losing gigs because we were stuck in our ways and Leah (Santos) brought a crazy happiness to a band that was feeling dead on its feet.” Brydle recalled.

It was Santos who persuaded the band to add the extra ‘t’ to Cold Shott. “She was into numerology and insisted it would bring us luck,” Brydle remembered. “But I hesitate to tell you that because I don’t want to jinx it!” he joked. Eventually Santos decided to leave the band. “Small Paul (Hamilton) had stepped in to cover a couple of gigs Leah (Santos) couldn’t make. He had retired and been out of the business for a couple of years.” Then when Santos left, Hamilton was asked to join the band. That brought about a collaboration with a new kind of magic.

As Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns celebrate their 20th Anniversary, the lineup remains extraordinary. Their first CD, “Full Circle” was recorded in 1995. In 2002 came the acclaimed “If You Got the Blues” and now they present us with another superb offering: “SOULutions.” It lives up to the promise of Cold Shott and the Hurricane Horns that Ted Kowal set out to fulfill…and then some.

Memphis Blues Showdown Wiinners, 1999

The Rhythm Section boasts some of the best in the business. Bass guitarist Tony Flores, who joined after Kowal’s death, has been the leader of many bands. Brydle credits him with helping solidify the foundation of the band after Kowal’s death. “He was extremely respectful about Ted. He didn’t push his talent or skill. It was a full year before he let his full talent shine.”

A Phoenix native, Flores has played with or shared the stage with R&B stars such as Johnny Taylor, Al Wilson, Phoenix’s own Dyke & the Blazers, The Whispers, Rufus Thomas, The Shirelles and Phoenix Soulman Small Paul. Flores penned “It Really Doesn’t Matter” which was included on Tower Of Power’s CD "Rhythm & Business.”

Rich Brydle is a self-taught guitarist who has played with many various rock, folk-rock and blues-rock ensembles in his early performance years and has taught guitar. “My move from ‘groupie-to-member’ of this hot rhythm section has been a dream come true,” he says. In addition to being a performing member, he is the band manager and webmaster.

“Big Mack Mason” aka Pat McDonald joined the band in 2010. A professional keyboard player and vocalist for the past 36 years, the classically trained, "Mack" quickly turned to Motown, R&B and jazz in his early teens. McDonald has played for many years most notably with HoneyBoy Dupree, The Incinseros and now with Cold Shott and The Hurricane Horns.

Dale Loyola who joined in 2011, has been a professional percussionist, lead and background vocalist for more than four decades. He worked as a studio musician for Universal, A&M, Capitol, Motown and Warner Bros. and performed with Billy Preston, Edwin Starr, Albert Collins, Ray Charles and many others. Loyola was with The DelRayz in Phoenix for the past 2 years.

Cold Shott Live

Chicagoan Tim Finn began his musical career at age 14. His many years of experience include opening for Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels and many others. He has opened for R & B showman Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Ryders, Sister Sledge and Loinel Hampton and rubbed shoulders at celebrity jams with Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Lefty Diz, Eddie Clearwater, Tyrone Davis, Linda Clifford and Curtis Mayfield.

And Cold Shott’s ‘HurrIcane Horns’ are a formidable bunch. Their sound is inimitable. Alto and baritone sax man Tim Matteson rejoined the band in 2010 but had been one of the Hurricane Horns since his initial arrival in 2004. Throughout his career, Tim has performed with many outstanding groups including Limbs Akimbo, Warsaw, Tommy Dukes, Danny Rhoades & the Messengers, the Mike Vax Big Band and the Temptations.

Keith Kuczynski is a multi-instrumentalist born and raised in Michigan. He arrived on the Arizona scene in 2006. One of the Hurricane Horns since 2006 he returned in September of 2010 after a brief hiatus. He plays alto and tenor saxophones, trumpet and flute. His unique, versatile sound has put him onstage with many well known musicians including Bill Haley’s Original Comets, HoneyBoy Dupree and the SmokeHouse Players, Jerry Lawson, Jerry Riopelle, Rare Earth, Tommy Chong’s Band and The Tubes.

Trumpet and flugelhorn player Frank Blanco has been one of the Hurricane Horns since his initial arrival in 2006. He brings a diverse musical background that includes classical, funk, latin, salsa, jazz, blues, and pop. Blanco has shared the stage with many great musicians and had the honor of playing behind Arturo Sandoval – one of the world’s greatest trumpet players.

Head on out to the Rhythm Room to join the party. Kick back and take it all in or put on your dancin’ shoes. Either way, you’ll be glad you did. And bring a few extra bucks to buy their new CD, SOULutions. Then you can continue the party whenever the spirit moves you!

For ticket information go to rhythmroom.com