Recently I reviewed Dave Koz’s Ultimate Christmas and really fell in love with it, so I jumped at the chance to attend the Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. I had never been to the Cobb Energy Center before, but it is a perfect performance venue, and we had wonderful seats directly in front of and very near the stage. The view was perfect and the sound quality stellar.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos during the concert, so I am going to have to try to use inadequate words to describe this extremely visual as well as aural show.
Even before the show began, we knew we were in for fun when a delightful pixie of a girl identified as Holly, dressed in green and with green striped hose, roller-skated across the stage to announce the 15 minute and then the 10 minute mark. She then came back on stage to introduce “Dave Kloz” and friends, insisting when corrected that it was not Dave Koz, and she should know because she worked for him! When a voice from backstage asked her to kill a little time while they finished getting ready, she broke into a killer tap routine followed by a frenetic disco number, thus setting the tone for the evening. She finished her routine by disappearing behind a screen, which when lowered revealed Dave Koz in red pants and a bathrobe with a toothbrush in his mouth. “Good evening, I’m Dave Kloz,” he announced before retreating behind the curtains to emerge moments later in a stunning red suit.
Joining Koz for the performance were three other superstars of contemporary jazz: trumpeter Rick Braun (who also produced the Christmas CD), South African guitarist and singer Jonathan Butler, and petite Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer. Even though it is billed as the Dave Koz Tour, the four musicians shared time equally, performing both individually and together. They were backed by elaborate projected images which perfectly suited the songs and dazzled the eye, but somehow did not detract from the performers. It was delightful to watch Koz, Braun, Butler and Dulfer bob, weave, and dance across the stage, playing off and interacting joyfully with each other. They were constantly in motion, as one segment of the show moved seamlessly into the other with not a single visible glitch or hesitation. For the first night of such an elaborate production, it was amazing, in retrospect, to realize that it all worked so very smoothly, although at the time it just seemed perfectly natural.
The show, of course, included many seasonal songs. For most numbers, the musicians played and alternately sang and audience participation was encouraged. One standout number among the many was the version of “Little Drummer Boy” with Butler drumming an intricate South African rhythm, then joined by Braun on trumpet for an excellent fresh rendition of this perennial favorite. Other numbers included “Winter Wonderland,” and a delightful duet between Koz and Dulfer which updated “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and allowed them to play a wonderful sax duet. During this number, the stage was transformed by means of projected images into Koz’s living room, complete with a fireplace and large portraits of himself on the walls. Butler brought the crowd to its feet with his powerful version of “O Holy Night.” What a powerful and expressive voice that man has!
Another segment of the show honored four classic performers associated with Christmas: Bing Crosby with “White Christmas,” featuring Braun; Nat King Cole with “The Christmas Song,” featuring Butler; Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby,” with Dulfer adding a few items to the list (“Jimmy Choos and Laboutins, too”) and invoking Beyonce at the mention of the ring (“and one more thing, a ring..If you like it, you oughta put a ring on it”); and Frank Sinatra, with Koz rendering “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Among the non-seasonal segments of the show were a stunning version of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to honor the troops, and Braun’s rendition of “The Good Life,” from his new CD, on which he sings for the first time (he has an excellent crooner’s voice). Butler’s show-stopping, soaring version of “No Woman No Cry,” and a segment called “The Koz Zone,” which transformed the stage into a neon-filled jazz district while the performers took turns playing familiar hits such as “Green Onions.”
Koz is actually Jewish, and he did a marvelous number off of the Ultimate Christmas CD, “Eight Candles (A Song for Hanukkah),” during which he performed a traditional Jewish dance step. Then, the two African-American guitarists from his band suddenly stepped in front of Koz, playing a very funky rhythm. “You’ve hijacked my Hannukah song!” Koz exclaimed. “There’s nothing funky about Hannukah! But,” with a shrug, “If you can’t beat ’em,” and he added a very funky sax version of the tune to the mix. The three ended the song doing the Hannukah dance step in unison, and the audience exploded into thunderous applause.
There was more, much more, far more than I can describe here, in the 2 1/2 hour show. It was a true holiday extravaganza, and a fabulous way to kick off the festive season. This was only the first show of the tour, which will cover 23 cities in 27 days, which means the Dave Koz Christmas Tour is probably coming to a city near you. The tickets here were not cheap; had I not been covering the show I could not have afforded them. You may hesitate if they are expensive, wondering if the show is really worth it. I’m here to tell you that it is. Put it on your Christmas wish list if necessary; it is an experience you will remember with pleasure throughout the year.