The Palladium // Sunday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m. December 2019 A popular annual tradition at the Center, 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. The saxophonist and bandleader has earned nine Grammy nominations and sent nine albums to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. Joining Koz this year will be singer-songwriters Jonathan Butler and Melissa Manchester, saxophonist Michael Lington and special guest Chris Walker. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit thecenterpresents.org. First, I’d like to welcome you back to Carmel. You have become an annual holiday tradition here for so many of your fans, so I’m curious what is it about the Palladium and our city that keeps bringing you back to kick off the holidays for us? Carmel is one of those places that is a “must” on the circuit for us. The venue is so amazing, and it just feels like Christmas for us while we’re there, though I’ll be honest, I think the Palladium at any time of year is special because it is acoustically and visually striking. And not just the hall where the show takes place but the lobbies, the different rooms and the way it’s put together. Whoever designed it and whoever put all the pieces together really knew what they were doing. You had mentioned that another part of what makes your stay in Carmel so enjoyable are the people behind the scenes who make the day-to-day goings-on most enjoyable for you and your fellow artists. Do you care to elaborate on that point? What most concertgoers don't know is that behind the scenes, the people that we interact with that are part of the catering or part of the production staff make our lives. Those are the people who are so instrumental in a good show, and they never get the credit that they deserve. And those are the reasons that we keep coming back and also because of the incredible audiences. It’s a listening and appreciating audience, and I have to say that we play in a lot of wonderful places with this tour year after year, and we always try new places, but as I said, Carmel remains a “must” on the tour. I remember the first time that we came to Carmel—there was not much going on there. There was not much development then. Now, every year we come back, there's like this sprawling city, and it's really amazing to see the growth that's happened there. For those who don’t know, this is the 22nd year for this tour. A lot of evolution has occurred over the years, I’m sure. What is new for this year’s tour that you would like to share with your fans? Jonathan Butler’s coming back this year. He’s been my right-hand guy for many of those years. There are many people who come to the concert just to hear his version of “O Holy Night.” I can tell you for sure that will be on the set list, otherwise people will be throwing tomatoes if not. Jonathan has so much raw talent that just oozes out of his pores. He's an amazing guitarist and singer. We have a legend and true icon of music that is joining us for the first time who's been a good friend of mine for a long time, and we've collaborated together but we've never toured together, and that is Melissa Manchester. Her body of work, her songs—she's an amazing songwriter as well—is incredible. She’s a multiple Grammy winner, and we're very excited about introducing her to our audiences for the first time. And then we have another saxophonist—who is one of my best friends—who's never been with us before, Michael Lington, and who is originally from Copenhagen, Denmark. He's been living in the U.S. for about 30 years, and we've been friends since I met him, which happened to be the first week he came here. Then we're introducing a guy named Chris Walker, who was the music director and bass player for the great Al Jarreau for 20 years. Chris is an amazing singer and artist in his own right, and he just released his Al Jarreau tribute album—“We’re in This Love Together,” celebrating Al Jarreau—to keep all that music alive. Chris has been on our cruises and is developing a real strong fan base, so this is a wonderful year to introduce him to our guests as well. Talk with me about your new holiday album that recently dropped and is available now—a wonderful holiday gift—titled, “Gifts of the Season.” I should also say that Michael, Jonathan and I all have brand-new holiday albums. What's really nice about this tour is being able to introduce new music—it isn’t new music per se because they're classic Christmas songs, but they're new renditions of these songs. Being able to have three new albums to mix up the set list makes it really fresh and allows us to build a brand-new show. I read once that you refer to holiday music as “musical comfort food.” What exactly does that mean to you? And what is your favorite holiday song that holds the most meaning to you? Musical comfort food is how I describe the holidays. The holiday season is all about nostalgia, and that's the reason why we connect with these songs we’ve heard hundreds if not thousands of times. They really connect us with our past. For me, “White Christmas” connects me with my past even though I grew up Jewish. Christmas music was always around my house because my parents loved the classic singers like Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. So, I heard all of these beautiful songs lofting in my house, and when I play them and hear them, they remind me of those moments in my life. I think in that way, music is such a great communicator of the feeling of Christmas. It’s also why we really don’t want to hear new Christmas songs. If you look at the lexicon of Christmas songs, the newest ones that we listen to are 25 years old, so it’s really hard to introduce a brand-new Christmas song because at this time of year, we want to go back to that sweater that our grandmother gave us that is holey, and we really shouldn’t be wearing it but it feels so good when you put it on. Or that special holiday food that your aunt makes, and all these things that remind us of our past. Music is so much like that, and that is where musical comfort food comes from. When you hear that Christmas song that you’ve been listening to your whole life, it just makes you feel good. It’s a reminder of simpler times. Christmas comes around, and it’s a calendar-mandated opportunity for all of us to be reminded of what’s important and maybe go into the new year focused on being a little bit more generous, tolerant and kind. It’s a chance to press the reset button on our lives, and music is a huge part of that experience. Speaking of generosity, are there any organizations or causes that you work with that you would like to shine a light on this season? Thank you for asking that question, yes. The Starlight Children’s Foundation—which has been my pet charity for about 25 years—helps kids who are in the hospital for long periods of time and provides them with a little sense of normalcy in a very not normal situation. This year, we raised an amazing $200,000 on our Australian Cruise for Starlight, and our cumulative total that we have raised is well over $1 million dollars. This year, we’re taking the money that we raised and are donating 100 virtual reality headsets to local children’s hospitals in every city that we go to on this tour, including Carmel. The children’s hospitals will be getting a VR headset that is total state-of-the-art and brand-new technology. It’s been clinically proven to improve health care for children by improving the child’s experience while in the hospital. So, hopefully, we are making an impact in each of the cities that we go to and help these kids in a profound way. What do you hope the audience will experience and take away from your show this year? My best intention is that when people walk out of the Palladium, they felt like we were an extension of their family and friends. That it wasn’t just a concert per se, but the feeling that we want to create is that of a big living room where we’re all friends and family enjoying the holidays together. It is a very high-energy show, but it’s also very sentimental. The holidays bring out a lot of emotions, and we don’t shy away from any of those emotions. It’s a full experience from start to finish. Plus, you’ll get to see five artists who love collaborating and working together who are equally committed to creating a magical and special night for our guests.