Christmas Time Is Here (Again)
Dave Koz celebrates 20 years of ringing in the season

By Lee Valentine Smith

Sure, he's known as one of the smoothest contemporary jazz players in the business, but saxophonist Dave Koz is much more than just a quiet storm. He's a much-lauded, in-demand player who has collaborated with the very best jazz and rock musicians.

For the past two decades he's led a series of successful Christmas-themed tours - with five corresponding albums in tow. His newest, Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas, is the reason for his current touring season, joined by friends David Benoit, Rick Braun, Peter White and Selina Albright.

Relaxing on Halloween night at his studio in Los Angeles after a successful European tour, Koz spoke with INsite about the Christmas tour which kicks off in Atlanta at Cobb Energy Center.

The irony is not lost on me that we're talking on Halloween about a Christmas tour that comes to town on Black Friday.

(Laughs) I know and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. The place we're playing, the Cobb Energy Center, is just beautiful. Hopefully people will be in the Christmas spirit and not too fatigued from their Black Friday experience.

To get everyone in the spirit, your 20th anniversary Christmas album has been available for a couple of months now.

Yeah I think it came out at the end of September but it's usually right around now that people finally accept that the holidays are really coming. It creeps up on us a lot earlier that it used to - that's for sure.

To get an edge on the early market, you must have recorded it this past summer.


We did it in June and July, yes, and it turned out to be the fastest album I've ever made. It was almost like second nature for the people involved - my great friends and musical brothers. Basically it's reuniting the original cast of our first Christmas tour from 20 years ago. There's so many years in the collective musical kinship with the four of us that things would come together so beautifully in the studio. We didn't even talk a lot about what we were doing, it was just like there was the track and then it was done. Painless.

Is it difficult to get into the holiday spirit in June?

Like most Christmas albums it was recorded during the worst dog days of summer and it was about 95 degrees outside. We'd go into the studio in Hollywood and set the air conditioner really low, string some lights up, whatever we could do to set the mood. But I'm really proud of it especially since it represents a lovely milestone for us.

That's the power of music - it can instantly evoke a mood.

That's the interesting thing about Christmas music especially. It has the power to instantly set that feeling and the tone because they're more than just songs. These melodies and lyrics are part of our lives, they've been there since the very beginning so it's like family. There's an innocence to them that you really can't find with other music.

With so many beloved pieces to choose from, it must be difficult to narrow down the live set at this point.

We really won't know exactly how it goes until we do that first night in Atlanta. I think the way we've been able to keep this afloat for so long is that it's never the same show. Hopefully the feeling is the same but the show changes and I know people do come back regularly. I've seen kids grow up in front of our eyes from year to year.

It's great that you're looking back to the very beginning of the concept with this tour.

Yeah it was actually David's idea initially. He was a guest on my radio show and it was very soon after his mom had died. She'd died just a couple of weeks after my dad died. He said, 'Why don't we get a little band together and go out and do some shows for the holidays instead of just being home missing our parents? Let's honor them the best way we know how.' So that was 1997 and here we are 20 years later.

It would be remiss of me not to mention your cameo on the Foo Fighters album [Concrete and Gold, also released in September]. How'd that happen?

Well Dave Grohl, I've known for a long time. I know, you look at him and you look at me and you go, 'How are those two people related?' Technically he's my Godson - even though he's not much younger than I am. I have so much respect for what he's done with his career and his music. He's a brilliant rock star; one of the most respected and admired in the world.

Could this be a new thing for you? Maybe you can tour with them at some point?

Well, he invited me to play live with them just a few weeks ago! It was at this big festival in California called CalJam.

How'd it go?

Going onstage with the Foo Fighters as a special guest in front of nearly 40,000 people - and he made a big deal about it, too - I'll never forget that night as long as I live. It was like an out-of-body, beyond surreal experience. I don't know if it'll ever happen again but I sure hope so!

Dave Koz performs November 24 at Cobb Energy Center at 8 pm. For more information, please visit cobbenergycentre.com.

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