Smooth Jazz Christmas December 22, 2007
“Christmas” Dave Koz and Famous Friends Light up the Center
By Glen Creason
They just have to find another name for this concert. In its tenth season, the “Smooth Jazz Christmas” show, hosted at center stage by Dave Koz is increasingly high-energy, kinetically engaging and high voltage in its positive vibes. This is a Christmas party with musical Irish coffee served leaving the crowd a little tipsy and somewhat caffeinated. The cast changes a bit each year but some things stay the same, including the overall enthusiasm, the amazingly joyful performances and an audience as jacked up as kids on Christmas morning. This year the famous guests included Kimberley Locke of “American Idol,” towering Wayman Tisdale of the NBA and the greatly under sung Jonathan Butler, once of South Africa.
Of course, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts is most certainly the big leagues and laurels won’t win an audience, even one as happy as Scrooge in the last act. Not to worry with this bunch though since Ms. Locke tore up, Tisdale showed his guitar is as good as his hoops (he was first-team All-American at Oklahoma U.), Koz was his usual terrific self and Jonathan Butler just plain stole the show. From the jump of Dave Koz’ wailing “Winter Wonderland” to the fantastic finale of Butler’s “Brand New Day” the joint was truly jumpin’ That connection with the audience helped the group pull off some unorthodox stuff including having individuals in the crowd provide the chorus for “Little Drummer Boy” and the diminutive Koz stand ax to ax with the 6’9” Tisdale on his tribute to his own chosen people with “Eight Candles.”
There seems to be a move toward even more Christmas tunes in this year’s edition and the standouts were Kimberley Locke’s Etta James-esque “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” an amazing call and response between Butler and Tisdale on “This Christmas” and a silky smooth “White Christmas by Dave Koz. This being the last show on a long tour seems to let the artists give a little extra as in a standing ovation inducing “O Holy Night” as done by Jonathon Butler with Kimberley Locke hitting notes as high as the cool flags atop the Center. Each artist also dug into their own bag of gems including Tisdale’s “Get Down on It,” Kimberley Locke’s bubbly “Band of Gold” and the heartfelt “I’ll Be There” by Dave Koz. Strangely enough, the finest moment of this very rewarding evening of good spirits and fine musicianship was not a Christmas song or even close to being drawn from the Yule literature. Jonathan Butler took the Bob Marley song “No Woman, No Cry,” one I have heard a hundred times and made it a masterpiece of inspiration and optimism. His vocal and guitar playing during this four minute tour de force will go down in hall history as one of the most engaging ever.
Mostly, the Smooth Jazz Christmas show was not terribly smooth; it was a lot more fun than that. It was warm and funny and in the end worth remembering until next year’s yuletide rolls around.