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Dave Koz & Friends Christmas

Posted by April Galenzoski on 2017/12/04

Unwrapping the celebratory new Holiday album from Dave Koz was not unlike some Christmas mornings. You open up a package and there in front of you, in this case audibly, is something you never expected, yet are the recipient of- something very unique and special. That was my reaction listening to the wondrous collection of Holiday hits on this package from four of the most renowned contemporary jazz artists, Dave Koz, trumpeter Rick Braun, guitarist Peter White, and pianist David Benoit. 

The 20th Anniversary Christmas and additional tour reunite Dave with his original lineup from many Christmases past, who are walking on stage to sold out crowds yet again in 2017.  Collectively, the four spread pure Holiday magic with this 11 song offering of the beloved classics, in a manner that is comforting, soothing, and purely pleasurable. What immediately surprised me was the production and arrangement on the album with its delightfully traditional sound and inspiring interpretations of the music we have cherished throughout our lives. To paraphrase Dave, this is the kind of album you put on after retiring in front of the fireplace after dinner for a spiced eggnog, or  while marvelling at the brightly lit tree when the house is quiet and the kids are upstairs dreaming of Santa’s pending slide down the chimney. And it’s those wonderful attributes that make the 20th Anniversary Christmas such a joyful listening experience.

Winter Wonderland opens on a whimsical orchestral note before transitioning into a finger-snappy performance where all four of the stars have their own solo and there’s even more traditional orchestra on the quartet’s medley of Joy To The Wonderful World which seamlessly melds two classics Joy To The World and It’s  A Wonderful World into an enchanting Holiday medley.  Christmas Time Is Here is as gentle as the original, O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree), one of Dave’s all-time favourites, is especially entertaining.  While beginning with classy foot tapping jazz swag, midway through, Dave, Rick, Peter begin some playful improv and by the ending have stirred in melodies from On Broadway and Jingle Bells which again demonstrates the musical mastery of these seasoned greats.

This brilliant milestone album is not without some reputable and talented vocal guests, including Jeffrey Osborne on the back half of another Christmas music conflation, The Home Medley, bringing together I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Celebrate Me Home, two all-time favourites of the Holiday season. The soulful voice of Javier Colon adorns a moving rendition of Silent Night, chiming in after several minutes of musical serenity to begin this cherished carol.  Fans who have witnessed the current simultaneous 20th Anniversary Christmas tour have been praising the vocal styling of Selena Albright, the daughter of veteran saxophone great Gerald, and for good reason. Her voice is full of passion and conviction on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, reaching near gospel heights of intonation before the song is complete.

The 20th Anniversary Christmas is more than a compilation of time honoured festive classics from four of the premier talents of contemporary jazz. Its simplistic yet charming elegance embodies what the season is, or at least should be about, and that is an escape from the frantic pace and over commercialization that typically takes some of the glitter off a special time of year that evokes wonderful memories. And memories are what the album and tour are all about, according to Dave, who says ‘If you had asked me twenty years ago, I would never in a million years believed that we’d be doing Christmas tours two decades later”. He adds ‘’So with twenty years under our belts, it seemed like a great reason to celebrate and that’s why we decided to include the original cast our Christmas tour. It’s our chance to go back to the very beginning and celebrate the relationships that this whole journey was built on’

That analogy reminds me of a saying that might actually be biblical in origin, and  that is, "In order to see the future, sometimes you need to look to the past". For what that’s worth, I wish Dave many more years of bringing the intangible gift of music each Christmas season in song and on stage.

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