On Stage: Dave Koz – 25 Years of Holiday Cheer

Dateline – DETROIT
Music Hall
7 December 2022

If you haven’t shared a holiday evening with saxophonist and smooth-jazz icon Dave Koz and his friends, add it to your Christmas list. My man has been doing this since before the turn of the century, and the Koz holiday train shows no signs of slowing down. Mind you, this is no polar express; you could roast chestnuts on the heat from the energy on stage. Koz and his friends are world-class musicians and performers, and the crowd were definitely getting holly and jolly.

For this silver anniversary show, Koz has assembled some of the original cast from his first holiday gathering – Rick Braun on trumpet and Peter White (Christmas) on acoustic guitar. Original cast member David Benoit had been announced, but has been replaced by the delightful Keiko Matsui on piano. Up-and-coming vocalist (and bassist) Rebecca Jade returns from last year’s cast.

Koz, blowing with Keiko, Rick, Rebecca, Peter & the band – photo by Cathy Powers

The show is in the style of a Las Vegas revue, heavily front-loaded with classic Christmas jams like “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” then soaring through some of the featured performers’ solo material, and touching back down with “What a Wonderful World.” A set filled with highlights featured Koz’s one-note rhythm duet with drummer Jay Williams during his drum solo, Rebecca Jade on bass for a duet with Keiko Matsui, Peter White’s gentle finger-picking on “Silent Night,” and Rick Braun blowing holiday cheer as he wandered the aisles of this beautifully-restored Detroit theater.

The backing band was a particular highlight for me. Guitarist and native-Detroiter Randy Jacobs is groovy as hell, and the rhythm section of Nate Kearney, Jr on bass and the aforementioned Jay Williams on drums is smooth, heavy and inventive. Along with keyboardist Carnell Harrell, these merry gentlemen kept it driving and funky.

Complementing the virtuoso musicianship, there was more singing than I expected, with the featured performers showing off impressive vocal chops. I loved that Koz sang his version of Adam Sandler’s “The Chanukah Song” during his traditional Hanukkah medley, and I appreciated the band’s hopeful version of John Lennon’s poignant “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with a segue into “Imagine.”

This was the fastest two hours in show biz. A kick-ass holiday party, with our host Santa Koz making all our holiday dreams come true. I didn’t sit on his lap, but we did get to meet the man after the show. He was just as generous and encouraging off stage as he is on. Happy holidays, my friend, and thanks for once again bringing the spirit of the holidays to Detroit.

Say “Christmas cheese!” – selfie by Dave Koz
Dave Koz (l) and Phil Childers (r) with playwright Neil Simon ; )

If you missed the 25th, make sure to board the Santa Koz train when it stops in your town the next holiday time around.

Buy & stream Koz’s new recording, Christmas Ballads, featuring David Benoit and Rick Braun

Keep up with Koz on tour on davekoz.com

More Koz

Smooth Talker: Grammy-Nominated Saxophonist Dave Koz



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