Dave Koz Smooth Jazz Christmas Friday Dec. 23
Dave Koz’ Smooth Yule at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
In sort of the grand finale of a glorious and full Cerritos holiday season Dave Koz and his Smooth Jazz Christmas put a bow atop the Performing Arts Center tree on Friday evening. The ever popular show is approaching the decade mark with the spirited sax man at the center and alternating musician ornaments adorning the festive gathering. This year there was high energy and humor from vocalist Patti Austin and guitarist-singer Jonathon Butler along with the always wonderful David Benoit on the piano. Smooth may be the description of choice but these shows are never laid back and this one rocked the hall much more than it put the place into spiritual, reflective moods. The presentation is more Vegas than Oxford Chapel with a stage full of expressive players including the electric and expansive bass man Bill “Rubber Hand” Sharpe who gave the whole an extra glimmer of wattage.
Koz opened with his big horn and started up the holiday feelings on “Winter Wonderland” then handed the holly over to Jonathon Butler who took the packed house on a “Sleigh ride” who passed it to David Benoit for a not that solemn “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” who let Patti Austin finish the lap with “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”
It wasn’t all holiday sounds since each artist took on favorite songs including a very high octane fully leaded “Let It Free” by Koz, a wide-screen take on James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” by Jonathon Butler, and a powerful “Come to Me” by Patti Austin who sang both ends of the famous duet. Of course David Benoit gave the gathered what they came for in a medley of songs from the now venerable, 40 year old Charlie Brown Christmas show. The “Linus and Lucy” portion turned into a huge jam that involved everyone on stage but mostly the blurred fingers of Benoit on that baby grand piano. Musical Director Brian Simpson also snuck up on the 88’s for a really stirring duet with Benoit on his delightfully infectious piece “It’s All Good” which it was for sure.
Other moments to remember included an audience humiliation portion with Butler wandering the aisles and asking non-plants to sing those “rum-pum-pum-pums” demonstrating why the folks on stage get paid and we in the audience pay to hear them. There was the sweetly sentimental, legitimately tear jerking tribute to Dave Koz’ Mom of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and also his instantly classic Chanukah song “Eight Candles” that once again rocked the menorah to light. The highlight of highlights may have been Jonathon Butler’s “O Holy Night” the concluded with a standing O’ Holy Ovation and Patti Austin’s Motown segment that was refreshingly pure and unadulterated 60’s Christmas cheer. Throughout the packed house provided plenty of encouragement including singing verses asked for or not and cheering like it was the night before the night before Christmas, which it was as a matter of fact. Lastly, Koz and friends gathered everyone around the Yule hearth and set a cozy mood for cruising into the holiday night extending Kenny Loggins’ “Celebrate Me Home” with strong voices, guitar, piano and especially that golden horn until everyone had musical sugarplums dancing in their heads.