Dave Koz - The 25th of December (2014)

Dave Koz
davekoz-25th.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

A stilted, sugary-sweet collection of holiday classics already heard dozens of times before or a cool, contemporary blend with enough timelessness and traditional edges to sound fresh years after its initial release: musicians either create one or the other (or, sometimes, an awkward ear-grating mix in-between) when it comes to Christmas albums. Experience is usually what differentiates the former from the latter and, thankfully, that's what saxophonist Dave Koz drew from for his holiday set, The 25th of December. 

A stilted, sugary-sweet collection of holiday classics already heard dozens of times before or a cool, contemporary blend with enough timelessness and traditional edges to sound fresh years after its initial release: musicians either create one or the other (or, sometimes, an awkward ear-grating mix in-between) when it comes to Christmas albums. Experience is usually what differentiates the former from the latter and, thankfully, that's what saxophonist Dave Koz drew from for his holiday set, The 25th of December. 

Since anyone can (and let's face it, practically everyone has) create a Christmas album, what makes one memorable rather than just marketable is the amount of effort put into the expected favorites and upping the appeal factor on the less-familiar tracks. Koz actually succeeds with both, pouring as much warmth and richness into "The First Noel" as one would expect from a marshmallow-floating mug of cocoa, then by invigorating "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" with a Big-Band feel featuring a fellow Sultan of The Sax, Kenny G. "Another Silent Night," earnestly conveyed by Richard Marx, conjures up visions of teary eyes, lump-filled throats and dog-eared airline vouchers: "My work will have to wait. I can't stand another day/of this holiday out here alone." 

With over two decades of contemporary jazz hits under his belt, Dave Koz may not need the assortment of famous Friends that abound on The 25th....., but their presence adds subtle enhancements rather than overwrought intrusions. Eric Benet's skilled, yet snow-melting rendering of "This Christmas" works better for adult-only under-the-mistletoe moments than for general merriment (it will be 'blazing' alright, phew!), but everyone can enjoy the elegant, energetic send-up of "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," delivered  by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and India.Arie, as well as Fantasia's medley "O Come All Ye Faithful/Angels We have Heard On High/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."----in typical 'Tasia' fashion, a somber beginning becomes a spirited middle and then a spunky, shoe-stomping end (Hallelujah!).

Whether it's Gloria Estefan infusing comfort and Cuban-styled rhythms ("Do You Hear What I Hear"), Johnny Mathis shaking up his own signature standard ("It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"), BeBe Winans' understated eloquence throughout the title track or the closing, star-studded sing-along "All You Need Is Love" (Marx, Mathis, Benet, Winans, Estefan, Jonathan Butler, Maysa, Stevie Wonder and Heather Headley,), Dave Koz's silken sax work and well-chosen collaborators make The 25th Of December feel like a gathering of talented buddies rather than an obligatory Yuletide affair; all the more reason to instantly upload it and retain that jazz-inflected jubilancy for this season and others to come. Enthusiastically Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE 25TH OF DECEMBER

 
World Premiere - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"
Album of the Month - Jeffrey Dennis - "Lovin On You"
Featured Album - Leon Ware - "Rainbow Deux"

Leave a comment!