Dave Koz & Friends will release 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. Rebecca Jade is the featured vocalist on the album’s gorgeous medley of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) / Imagine.”
In creating a beautiful companion piece for the 25th anniversary, Koz’s vision was very different than any of his previous seven holiday sets. Unlike his earlier, rhythmically eclectic mixes of buoyant funk and soulful slow-jams, Christmas Ballads is designed as an exploration of the romantic side of the season, setting a gentle, laid back mood for a quiet night by the fireside with a glass of wine.
“As much fun as I have creating a party atmosphere live, if you ask me my favorite part of the holidays, it’s taking the time to relax and enjoy the quiet moments, reflecting and feeling gratitude,” explains Dave Koz. “These ballads are the kind of music I want to be listening to after the big festivities are over and the sleigh bells fade into the night.”
To keep a flow of fresh magic, Koz’s main criteria for Christmas Ballads was putting new spins on songs he had never recorded before. There’s also one original – “Wrapped Up In Your Smile,” a classic-styled Koz power ballad co-written with the album’s producer and arranger, Philippe Saisse.
“He’s so French and brings a different, worldly approach, sensitivity and beauty to these tunes,” says Koz, who recently topped Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Airplay chart with “Summertime in NYC” – the fourth consecutive No. 1 single from his 2020 album, A New Day.
The album begins with the timeless Sammy Cahn/Jules Styne classic “A Christmas Waltz,” whose vibe eases from mystical and gently lyrical to subtly swinging, with Koz’s alto creating a charming conversation with Braun’s flugelhorn. Koz gets his Karen Carpenter on via an exquisite, buoyantly elegant twist on The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling.”
Five of the tracks are sacred hymns, starting with Saisse’s uniquely arranged medley of “Away in a Manger/Silent Night” and continuing on through “Greensleeves” (presented for the season as “What Child is This?”), an effortless blend of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/My Favorite Things,” Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” Led by Koz’s tenor and Benoit’s piano, the friends create a passionate rendition of “Petit Papa Noel” from the 1946 French film “Destins” – a song that Saisse grew up listening to.
Dave Koz & Friends
25th Anniversary Collection
Featuring David Benoit, Rick Braun and Peter White
1. The Christmas Waltz
2. Away In The Manger / Silent Night
3. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) / Imagine (feat. Rebecca Jade)
5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / My Favorite Things
6. Ave Maria
7. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear / Happy Holiday
8. Merry Christmas Darling
9. Petit Papa Noël
10. Wrapped Up In Your Smile
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