Center Presents: Dave Koz & Friends 25th Anniversary Christmas Tour

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The Palladium // Friday, Dec 9, 8pm ET

November 2022

A popular annual tradition at the Center, saxophonist and bandleader Dave Koz’s holiday concerts feature stellar special guests performing fresh, lively arrangements of seasonal favorites in a high-energy show for the entire family.

Dave Koz & Friends released “Christmas Ballads (25th Anniversary Collection)” on September 23. The chart-topping, GRAMMY®-nominated saxophonist is joined on the album by pianist David Benoit, trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Peter White — the friends who accompanied him on the road in the earliest years of the Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2022 and holds the record as the longest-running jazz-based Christmas tour. This year’s “friends” also include Keiko Matsui [keyboardist] and Rebecca Jade [vocalist]. Rebecca Jade is the featured vocalist on the album’s gorgeous medley of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) / Imagine.”

In a career spanning three decades, Koz has earned nine Grammy nominations and sent nine albums to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. An entrepreneur and restaurateur, he also hosts two radio programs: the syndicated The Dave Koz Radio Show, on the air for more than 20 years, and The Dave Koz Lounge on SiriusXM.

Opening the evening will be the bass-keyboard duo Bethany Robinson and Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin. Robinson, Jazz Band Director for Noblesville Schools, is a Yamaha performing artist, former Indiana Jazz Educator of the Year and 2022 Grammy Music Educator Award Finalist. McLaughlin, a Noblesville resident, is a singer and songwriter who has released six original studio albums and performs regularly across central Indiana.

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Janelle Morrison: Happy holidays, Dave! It’s become an annual tradition talking with you about coming to Carmel, Indiana. So, we’re looking forward to having you back!

Dave Koz: Happy Thanksgiving! We love coming to the Palladium! It’s certainly a bright spot on our tour because we feel very well taken care of there, and it always ends up being a great show for those of us on the stage.

JM: This is a rather special year for you and your group. It’s been 25 years of time, effort, talent and passion. What’s the secret to the longevity of your Christmas shows?

Koz: It’s funny. When I hear it coming out of somebody’s mouth like yours just now, I’m like, “Wait … wow! How did we get to 25 years?” It’s pretty astonishing because when you look at the fact that I’m Jewish and here we have eight Christmas albums and 25 years of touring at Christmas time, it’s kind of ironic, to say the least. But I love the music, and I’m such a fan of the musicians that I get a chance to work with every year. We change up our show every season, which keeps it interesting for all of us, and hopefully it’s still interesting for the people that come to see the show. You’re not coming to see the same thing year after year, and I think that’s been the recipe for us getting to 25 years.

JM: This is also a reunion of sorts for you and some of the “friends” who have joined you for this year’s tour, is it not?

Koz: Yeah, Rick [Braun] and Peter [White] were both original cast members of our shows going back to the beginning, as well as David Benoit. And David couldn’t do the tour, sadly, because of some health reasons, but he’ll be joining us for a couple of shows later on in the tour. But these guys are my oldest friends in the business. We’ve been through so much together. And Keiko brings a beautiful presence to the stage and incredible amounts of energy! We also have a young singer, Rebecca Jade, who is one of the real bright spots in the world of contemporary jazz music, bringing a whole new element and new energy to it with her music. So, it’s a really nice group of people with me this year.

JM: I listened to the gorgeous medley of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) / Imagine” that’s featured on your latest album. How beautiful, and sadly, relevant those [two] Lennon songs still are.

Koz: I was coming from a place of being a John Lennon fan. When I worked on the record with the wonderful producer and arranger, Philippe Saisse, a Frenchman, to our knowledge, those two songs had never been paired as a medley before. They fit together perfectly, and when you listen to it, it’s not just one song followed by the next, there’s fragments of each song blended throughout the song. So, that’s the genius of that one particular arrangement that really showcases the genius of Philippe. Philippe and I wrote one of the songs on the album, “Wrapped Up in Your Smile,” which we will perform in the show as well.

JM: This latest album is a different “vibe” than your previous Christmas albums.

Koz: When we started to look at the song titles, there seemed to be a mood that was shaping up with this collection of songs. It’s a little bit more meditative, a little more romantic and quieter. We imagined if you have a holiday party at your house, this is the “mood” after your guests have left, you’ve put away the dishes and it’s quiet now. There’s a fire going in your fireplace and maybe a nice glass of wine in your hands, and you’re enjoying a special quiet moment with your special person. This album truly celebrates that moment, and the music really helps complement the mood.

JM: Again, you’ve been touring during the holidays for 25 years. That’s time away from your family and friends, and I’m curious: What keeps you energized and passionate about sharing the bulk of the holiday season with your audiences, year after year?

Koz: My family has become my touring family and also the people that come to the shows every year.

Especially when we get a chance to come back to the same venues. There’s a tradition that happens, and we’ve been going on this tour to some of the same places for 25 years in a row. So, I remember people who have come and brought their kids every year — seeing them in the front and 2nd rows — and those kids grew up right in front of my eyes. And now they’re bringing their kids to the show! So, there’s this nostalgic tradition that has happened over the years, and I feel very grateful to be a part of it. And as long as people want to come and celebrate the holidays with us, we will continue doing it! 

Center Presents Dave Koz