CLEARWATER — Chart-topping, Grammy-nominated saxophonist Dave Koz will bring his 22nd annual “Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour” to the Tampa Bay area for one performance Tuesday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m., at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater.
Tickets start at $37. Call 727-791-7400 or visit www.rutheckerdhall.com.
Joining this year’s tour will be South African guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler, who has accompanied Koz on numerous Christmas outings; Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester, known for such mega-hits as “Midnight Blue,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and others; Copenhagen-born jazz/soul saxophonist Michael Lington; and special guest Chris Walker, singer, bassist and former musical director for Al Jarreau. Koz and his friends will perform fresh renditions of timeless Christmas classics — as well as a Chanukah medley — and hits from their respective catalogues.
Koz released “Gifts of the Season,” his seventh Christmas CD, in October.
It’s been 22 years since Koz released his first Christmas-themed set. According to a press release from Judi Kerr Public Relations, the saxophonist takes a very different stylistic approach on his new holiday album. The 11-track collection, released by Just Koz Entertainment Inc., was produced by Darren Rahn and brings a buoyant, soul/funk/pop feel to Christmas classics across different eras. “Gifts of the Season” sheds new light on their rich musicality and lyrical depth. Closing out the set is “A Prayer for Peace,” a new song penned by Koz.
“Gifts of the Season” is the ideal companion piece for the 22nd annual “Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour” — a whirlwind of 22 shows in 25 days. All four of Koz’s tour mates appear on the new album. Butler and Lington are also releasing Christmas albums this fall, so — in a first for the tour — the shows will feature material from three brand new holiday albums.
“One of the reasons I continue to record this music and tour every year is that the holidays are a reminder for all of us about the things that matter,” said Koz. “It’s a time when we seem more capable of living our best lives. It’s easy to get off course during the rest of the year, especially the way the world is these days with all of its antagonism and intolerance. The holidays help bring us back to center. That’s what ‘A Prayer for Peace’ is also — a way to express that music is perhaps our one last vestige of uniting people who may be at odds in other areas of life.”
To bring an added warmth to the songs, Koz and Rahn recorded the basic tracks in the producer/musician’s Denver studio, then visited the guest artists to record them in their home studios. “We wanted to capture them at their most intimate, powerful best,” explained Koz.
Approaching Mariah Carey’s “All I Want Is You” as a soulful ballad, Grammy winner Melissa Manchester changes the entire emotional trajectory of the song.
“It’s one of the most played holiday songs on the radio, but because it’s so up-tempo, it’s easy to overlook that it’s got a lot of meat on its bones,” Koz said. “Melissa’s version makes you stop and pay attention.”
Likewise, pairing the intensity of Lington’s alto saxophone with Koz’s tenor fuels an explosive funk/soul romp through “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
Butler brings his gritty, soul-gospel energy to classics from two different eras: a groovin’, African chant-spiced version of the nearly 70-year-old “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and a swinging, festive bounce through Donny Hathaway’s ‘70s smash “This Christmas,” which features Koz on soprano sax and Rahn on Wurlitzer and Hammond organ. Walker also knocks it out of the park, delivering the perfect blend of solemnity and classic soul power on a sparsely-produced rendition of “Mary Did You Know.”
“The title ‘Gifts of the Season’ is personal to me on many levels,” Koz said. “It’s not about the presents under the tree, but the gift of showing love and appreciation. As I approach the 30th anniversary of the release of my debut album, nobody is more surprised than I am by the career I have had and all the ongoing support from my fans. I have been blessed with so many gifts and, in turn, I am honored to have the opportunity to share the gift of music with people around the world.”
In his nearly 30-year recording career, Koz has racked up an astoundingly impressive array of honors and achievements: nine Grammy nominations, 11 No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart, numerous world tours, 13 sold-out Dave Koz and Friends at Sea cruises, performances for multiple U.S. presidents, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and more. A Platinum-selling artist, Koz is also known as a humanitarian, entrepreneur, radio host and instrumental music advocate.
For over 25 years, Koz has served as global ambassador for the Starlight Children’s Foundation — an organization dedicated to improving the lives of hospitalized children worldwide. In what’s become an annual tradition, he donates the money raised by the Dave Koz and Friends at Sea silent auctions to help the heroic kids served by Starlight. This year’s donation will provide state-of-the-art virtual reality headsets to 100 children’s hospitals along this year’s Christmas tour route.
Another continuing Koz tradition is KOZ Wines, which have helped raise over a million dollars for Starlight over the years.