Chasing Music: Valentine’s Concert with a Koz

Time and again, I’ve seen that jazz is alive and well in New York City. Time and again, I went to a place where I thought that the audience wouldn’t turn out for this and ended up witnessing a delightfully packed house. Of course, there are some musicians (ahem!) whom I don’t see because their tour doesn’t take them to New York.

Dave Koz is very much on that list.

I saw him all of once in South NJ, and the night was rocking. Hearing his music on the radio – Internet Radio, nowadays – I sometimes don’t realize it’s his work, but all the same, I notice the inflection behind the horns, a form of a musical soothsay. When you set Dave Koz on stage and add some Andre Berry and Randy Jacobs, then the picture changes, and it’s time to party.

Which, of course, means that when Dave Koz was listed as the artist du jour for the Best Buy Theater (formerly the Nokia), it was pretty obvious where I was going to be.

However, this was Valentine’s Weekend. I most certainly do not acknowledge the holiday (a different post on a different day, I assure), and I was thinking, for just a moment, that Dave was to wax romantic. I mean, he had to, right?

The first thing that struck me was actually the Best Buy theater itself. Upon the ticket scan, the crowd flowed downstairs towards the concession and the theater area. Bands of neon trailed the escalators down, and it almost felt like I was going into a modern-style nightclub rather than a theater. And all I could think of is, hot damn, Marquee Concerts has done it again.

Oh, and indeed so! Alex Bugnon opened the show, with his inimitable piano-funk style, and I knew, much to my own delight, that this was not at all going to be a “waxing romantic” sort of show. With 107 In the Shade showcasing a duel between the piano and the harmonica, the stage was set.

Now, Hello Tomorrow came out, and I can say without hesitation that this is my favorite Koz album next to the iconic and inimitable At the Movies. It’s quintessential Koz in the soothsay aspect, and it does the soothing in a way that’s more than a propos for the times. Where people are stuck in their situations, where they – quite often! – find themselves stumbling, cross-roaded, and disenchanted with their surroundings, Hello Tomorrow does a lot more than play good music. From the first track to the last, it’s a little whisper in the ear of things are going to be okay from here, and sometimes, more often than not, it’s a necessary thing to hear. It just sounds very different when someone says it without words.

The first strains of What You Leave Behind came from somewhere not on stage. From my seat on far left stageside, I turned around, and all the while, the alto sax sang its reassurance. The spotlight swept the audience as well, and eventually settled on a very familiar gentleman in a gray suit, with a silver alto horn, making his way onto the stage.

And that’s when the party started. Dave wasted absolutely no time in kicking up the pace of his music, and it wasn’t long before another familiar figure came out and shredded on that guitar. There is a reason that Randy Jacobs is known as Dynamite, and I heard it in every single growl of the strings. To say that he tore it up would be the understatement of the year.

Dave, of course, was in his element and he gets every single point for showmanship that I can hand. He was everywhere; playing with Brian Simpson on keys, shoulder-to-shoulder with Andre Berry on bass, and kicking out dance moves in time with the music when he wasn’t playing it. A tiptoe peek over Randy Jacobs’s shoulder, a kick for Andre to back off, and the end-song salute with the soprano sax – the energy coming off that stage isn’t something that I could describe.

Once the roof had re-settled onto the theater, Dave took the mic and spoke about the making of the album, and the cover of the Herb Alpert classic, This Guy’s In Love With You. He admitted that he never thought of himself as a singer, but nor was Herb, and this song is one of the most popular that he had ever released, and the producer insisted on it. And, for two people who aren’t typically singers, Dave Koz and Herb Alpert had one thing in common, and it was the way they made that song sound.

I’m not a romantic, you guys know it. The Inner Romantic of Kat Gilraine has been atrophied for a lo-o-o-o-ng time, but I appreciate a song done right, and this was more than done right. Not even a light trumpet on the song could’ve changed the energy that night.

That, I think, was the only time Dave slowed down the pace. The next thing he brought out was Anything is Possible, also off the new release, a driving, funk-filled blast of tenor sax that doesn’t let up in any way, shape, or form. Randy “Dynamite” Jacobs, added his spice, and the party was on. Put The Top Down was in that mix as well.

And then, there was Miss Dana Glover.

If you ever wondered whose voice is the husk from Start All Over Again, then your answer is a most lovely brunette behind a Yamaha baby grand. I will admit that this was the first time that I heard her voice, and despite my horrendous pickiness, that track off Dave’s CD caught my attention. The lyrics are reaching, relatable, and very raw. For everyone who doesn’t want to voice what happens when things turn sour, this is a voice, and this is a way to say it without saying it.

These are the things your mind will tell you,

These are the things your heart will say,

There is no way, no way, no way…

For every time that a person can’t say that this is what goes on in their head, these are the lyrics that say it.

But as long as you are breathing,

You can start all over again…

And that is what even fewer people hear when they’re in the prior state of mind.

That night particularly, when Dana came out to sing this, with Dave treading lightly on the alto horn, the energy shifted. The mood slowed down from the party that the band threw with the prior tunes, and turned a little bit more somber, as if to acknowledge the statement behind the music.

The wrap-up to the entire affair was a rousing rendition of Can’t Let You Go, a favorite of mine off the collection of greatest hits, and one that I’ve not heard in a while. An high-energy wrap-up, and a standing ovation was a very, very rightly deserved ending. And, not for nothing, but a Dave Koz party is a good way to spend Valentine’s weekend indeed.

Special thanks to Ken, Bill & Sam of Marquee Concerts, Dave and the gang, and the Best Buy Theater and its amazing, lovely backstage lounge.

K.G.

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