Dave Koz And Friends Bring Christmas Show To Arizona's Mesa Arts Center

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Dave Koz has been playing Santa with a saxophone for two decades now, bringing good cheer to the nation with his annual Christmas tours, and this year marks the tour's 20th anniversary. At about the halfway mark in the tour, Koz wowed a sold out crowd Dec. 13 at the Mesa Arts Center in metropolitan Phoenix. With a sleigh full of consummate musicians at his side, Koz played a two-hour show featuring holiday favorites and more, all delivered with smiles and a sense of humor.

Koz's Christmas shows generally feature different musicians and singers every year, and this year Dave gathered the men who backed him up on the very first Christmas tour back in 1997; guitarist Peter White, trumpet player Rick Braun and pianist David Benoit. All contributed their share of vocals, but the spotlighted vocalist was Selina Albright, an incredible talent that quickly won over the audience with her bright vocals and animated stage presence.

The show began with Koz addressing the crowd, thanking the audience for supporting the tour for 20-years and joking that when he began the venture, people were still using fax machines and that back then he still had brown hair (he's recently graying.) The music began with a joyous take on "Winter Wonderland" which featured brief solos from all four stars and segued into a four song medley that included "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" with Braun on vocals and that finished with a take on "Sleigh Ride" that boogied like crazy.

More holiday favorites like "White Christmas" and "Little Drummer Boy" followed, and Albright, dancing, shimmying and flashing a huge smile, stole the show with her take on Irving Berlin's "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." Later, in a segment that featured non-holiday songs, Albright would effervesce again with "Possible," the hit single from her recent album Conversations. That part of the show also featured Koz and Braun performing "Together Again," Braun and Benoit performing "Everything is Alright" and White playing the 1982 Stevie Wonder favorite "Do I Do." The first half of the show closed with the spotlight on Benoit as he and the band played a medley of Vince Guaraldi songs from "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Throughout the show Koz and company did a lot of clowning around on stage; the antics made it all the more clear that these performers were having the time of their lives. With every musical note being perfectly executed, rising star Albright could not have asked for a better backing for her vocals, and she took full advantage of it, taking the lead on the subdued "Silent Night," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and the buoyant "Feliz Navidad." A few more non-holiday songs rounded out the second set, including a soulful medley featuring "Grazin' in the Grass," "Shotgun," "Groovin'" and "Just My Imagination."

A four piece band of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums backed the stars throughout the show, and while each member was spotlighted at various times, the group came down from the riser they were perched on to join Koz, Braun, White, Benoit and Albright for a touching take on the Christmas tour's traditional closing number, Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home."

Remaining dates on the Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour can be found here.

Other shows coming to the Mesa Arts Center are here.

Dave Koz And Friends Bring Christmas Show To Arizona's Mesa Arts Center

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