Dave Koz, David Benoit and their musical friends are more used to being wise guys than wise men. But an annual Christmas tour proved to be one of the smartest moves of their careers.
The trek began 20 years ago and this year celebrates the anniversary by reuniting the original troupe -- along with fellow instrumentals Rick Braun and Peter White and new vocalist Selena Albright, all of whom also appear on Koz’s new album, “Dave Koz & Friends: 20th Anniversary Christmas,” which also features Jeffrey Osborne, Kenny Lattimore and Javier Colon. He also wrote the script for and stars in the new TV movie “Sharing Christmas,” which premieres Sunday, Dec. 10, on the Hallmark Channel.
And, of course, this year’s road trips will make sure the pre-holiday nights are not so silent, at least not for the time they’re on stage...
• Saxophonist Koz, 54, acknowledges that he “can’t believe” it’s been 20 years of playing holiday tours. “It’s honestly very, very difficult to wrap my head around that,” he says. “It’s a big milestone. When you get a little older everything seems to go much quicker, but I am taking a minute out on this tour especially to just reflect on how few things happen for 20 years in a row and how special it is and how grateful I am that we’ve been able to become this bit of a holiday family tradition for a lot of people. Everything about it has a nostalgic feel.”
• Koz gives credit to pianist Benoit with coming up for the holiday tour idea in the first place, however. “It started as a coping mechanism,” Koz notes, explaining that he and Benoit had lost parents within 10 days of each other and were commiserating. “He said, ‘Why don’t we just go out and play some shows together and deal with our emotions that way. Let’s do what we do best to deal with what’s happening in our lives’,” Kos recalls. “I said, ‘Wow, what a great idea.’ That first year we did six or seven shows, very lightly attended but it was really a very beautiful, heartfelt show and people liked it and we got invited back the next year and it just kept growing.”
• Koz does enjoy the irony that, as a Jew, he’s become the curator of a Christmas tradition. “I understand and respect the religious aspect of the holiday, of course,” he says, “but the holiday season is really about larger things that everybody, not matter what faith you subscribe to, is a part of -- or at least that’s what it feels like to me. We hit this time of year and people become slightly different, more open, more tolerant, more inclusive. It’s a fantastic time of year to be on the road, ‘cause people are just so open.”
• Koz says he felt it was important to commemorate the 20th anniversary with new recordings as well as a tour. “I didn’t want it to go by without acknowledging it in some significant way,” he says. “So I reunited the original cast of characters, and we wanted to make an album that was kind of reminiscent of those classic, beautiful, orchestral Christmas albums that we all know and love so well, that you can listen to after dinner when it’s a little more quiet around the house, you and your loved one around the fireplace, maybe with a nice glass of wine or a hot toddy or something. It’s a little more of a chill-out Christmas album like that. It was a really beautiful project to make. Benoit wrote the arrangements for the album and Rick Braun produced it, so it was like family. It’s a very personal, very heartfelt, very warm Christmas album.”
• Koz won’t be taking much of a holiday break. In January he’ll start working on a new album with his Summer Horns all-star band, which will include Braun, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliott and others, along with new singer-trombonist Aubrey Logan. “It’s still early days,” Koz says. “We haven’t quite focused yet wholly on the material. I would say where we left off on the last album (in 2013) is where we’re gonna start on this one, which was all the great horn bands’ material -- Earth, Wind & Fire, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Tower of Power, Chicago, James Brown...There were a lot of good-natured fights we’d have about the songs we wanted to record, and there were so many songs we did not record because we didn’t have the time or space. So that’s probably where we’ll pick up for this one.”
If You Go:
• Dave Koz, David Benoit, Rick Braun, Peter White and Selina Albright
• 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6.
• SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit.
• Tickets are $37-$50.
• 1-866-782-9622 or visit soundboarddetroit.com.
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