A Night in South NJ

Otherwise known as A Night with Dave Koz.

Now, the following concert writeup has a very good degree of back story. So, let me start as usual, in the only place to start: the beginning.

Back Story is as follows. Ken, a friend of mine from FB, told me that if I make it to the show and get the ticket, I could join him and others in going backstage. I think, “No problem!” Click, click, booked ticket. Brad & his lovely girlfriend Kristen were also set to come, so it was to be a great meetup.

As time to the show approached, I discovered that I had the following issue: timing. Atlantic City and NYC are 3 hours by bus. The show was a 9pm set. There was no way in hell that I could be there, hang with the people, attend the show, then make it back home and be functional the following day. I’d literally be getting home at 4am the next day. So, I booked a room at the venue hotel and booked the day off.

I got in on time, more than, and first thing I did was dine. Second, meet up with Ken. And third to arrive was a familiar face indeed: Carole! I met her while in line to meet-and-greet with Boney James at Berks. And not far from her – Rosa, whom I met under the exact same circumstances. A lovely reunion was had, and then I go in to take my seat.

Dare I say it? THANK YOU TICKETMASTER. I was on the floor, in the section closest to center stage.

The lights dim, the band takes stage – Randy Jacobs on the electric, Brian Simpson on keys, also of Berks – and then, there is a rousing blast of tenor sax. And the spotlight is right on Dave Koz…who is standing precisely at my row. Across the section – Jonathan Butler. And together, they lead off into Just the Two of Us, with Jonathan on vocals and Dave on the tenor sax.

Now this is certainly a start, and if this is a start, then I knew I was in for a hell of a night.

Indeed I was. Jonathan showcased some music from his So Strong album, and I will admit that I did a double-take, because I realized that Brand New Day was already a yearling. It just seems that time went by way, way too fast with the music, as though all one has to do is blink and there’s something lovely and new to explore. And, I may have mentioned this before in my write-ups of Montego Bay, but I’m not much for Gospel-styled music…with the sole exception being Jonathan Butler.

Dave, being Dave, of course, gets major, major showmanship points. He was everywhere on that stage; either playing alongside Randy Jacobs, or at the foot of Brian Simpson’s platform, or commandeering Jonathan’s progress across the stage with the guitar. The more I watched the interaction between him and everyone else on that stage – including some curious antics when Sheila E took stage – the more I saw that Dave is no more and no less than a master at the art of Live Show. I am highly skeptical with my horns, but Dave is good to listen to as far as horns go, you know what to expect from him. But then you have something like Bada Bing (which he didn’t play, and for shame. I love that one because that’s one piece of his that 1. is a step away from his usual easygoing style and 2. is infectious), and then there is the simple fact that Dave knows his audience well. He has a certain je ne sais quoi that stirs up excitement, so when he brings the tempo up, the crowd excitement level goes with it.

Which brings me to the special guest- Sheila E. The percussionist/drummer for Prince, with a voice fit for R&B and hands that can give the most hardcore drummers a run for the money, she was a first for me insofar as seeing her live. But man, oh man. See above for what I said about Dave knowing his audience. A powerhouse like Sheila E, whose drumsticks were flying – in some ways literally! – added more than a bit of extra spice to the atmosphere.

Best thing I liked about Sheila E? Her personality. The spark of her was everywhere: the glittery hearts and patterns on the percussion drums, the strappy espadrilles, the one-on-one with Jonathan Butler with percussion and guitar, and of course, her address of the crowd. When some ladies were leaving closer to the end of the night, she called them out on it. With sass. And I loved it!!

After the show – as part of Ken’s gang o’ attendees, we got to hang around and briefly meet-and-greet with Dave and Jonathan. Jonathan, to my surprise, remembered me from Jammin’ in Jamaica 09, and I will be seeing him at the 2010 trip as well. Dave was lively and easygoing, and much appreciated my small gift for him (also similar to Ken, and Brad & Kristen): Godiva chocolate, which I daresay would go great with any of the Koz Wines. Yes, Mr. Koz has a line of wines out and available. I’m eying the cabernet with lust; I absolutely love a good red.

My camera, my lovely Kodak, has surprised me yet again. Soon, I will put up photos from the show, and I am amazed at what a flashless ISO can capture with good backlighting.

With special shout-outs to my people: Brad & Kristen, Ken & Robin, Carole, Rosa and the others from SJS.

Also, Brian Simpson (whom I have run into at Berks and again at this show) and Randy “Dynamite” Jacobs, whose skill on the electric more than qualifies the adjective, are both on my To See In Their Own Shows list. I am sure Brian will be at Blue Note at least once in the near future.

And now, because I’m still a little extra-crispy from my sunburn, and am to meet a friend of mine in an hour… au revoir.

K.G.

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About Kat G

Sci-fi author. Jazz aficionado, an all-around enjoyer of peace, quiet, beauty, and contemplation.
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11 Responses to A Night in South NJ

  1. carole says:

    good, good, good review, K !! and so right on !

  2. LoryG says:

    Fantastic account of the evening! Thanks!

  3. Ken Levinson says:

    I loved it Kat. Great job! It was so nice spending time with you, and i’m glad you had so much fun. I emailing Dave a copy of this. :-)

    • Katherine Gilraine says:

      You’re…

      Excuse me, I have to now order you an entire year’s supply of Godiva.

      Seriously – wow. Just simply, wow. Thank you! It was a great time, meeting everyone from the Spot. Hell – we should do this again. A lot. Concert meetups, the such.

  4. Gwen Davis says:

    Kat., You already know that I am so happy for you that you enjoyed yourself. You truly deserved every minute of it. I am also grateful for us becoming family and friends of SmoothJazzSpot and FB. Love you much Dear Heart and Thanks for the update.

  5. Brad says:

    man, what a great night, and a great review, Kat! thanks for the shout-out, we appreciate that, along with the chocolate!
    so far, the show was the highlight of my year. we’ve had a very rough year, and this was just a nice way to make us smile and feel good, and have a nice date night, which is rare any more! so thanks to you, Ken and Robin, and everyone else!

  6. Ken Levinson says:

    Dave wrote me back and said:

    Nice!

    Dave Koz
    Just Koz Entertainment, Inc.

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