SMOOTH SUMMER JAZZ at the Hollywood Bowl

As soon as late August beckons and Labor Day is just around the corner, there’s something about our internal cultural and seasonal clocks that tells us that summer and all its attendant celebratory joys and expectations are over. But in truth, as thousands of fans gathered at the Hollywood Bowl on August 27 for its annual Smooth Summer Jazz extravaganza headlined by Dave Koz & Friends Summer Horns, there were still three and a half weeks (almost a whole month!) left.

Just in case we needed a reminder, smack in the middle of his 90-minute set, Koz, long established as smooth jazz’s most dynamic, charismatic and sunny-optimistic performer and emcee, led his saxophonic pals – genre greats Candy Dulfer and Eric Darius – through a funky-
fiery, high-energy medley of gems from each’s discography with “summer” in the title. All
dressed in bright white (Labor Day was a week away, remember!), the well-choreographed,
perfectly in synch trio began with Dulfer’s infectious singalong “Summertime,” then pivoted to
the joys of Darius’ “Summer Feelin” and wrapped with Koz’s “Summertime in NYC.”

Though Koz had introduced the segment mentioning some of his favorite old school summer-
themed classics, after the medley, he mentioned that the most summery tune ever, in his
estimation was Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” – and invited special guest vocalist Maysa to join
them in an onstage singalong of the iconic soul tune which evolved into a fun and clever audience participation set-piece pitting the low voices of the males against the higher ranges of
the females.

This was just one of the great highlights in a multi-faceted performance that included countless
have a blast, forget your troubles bright spots. Whether it’s part of a summer tour, a Christmas
tour or on one of Koz’s countless party at sea cruises, anyone who comes to a Koz & Friends
show knows they’re in for a show that makes the term “smooth jazz” seem like a misnomer.
With the exception of Dulfer’s lovely, chill renditions of “For the Love of You” and her career-
launching ballad “Lily Was Here” – played as a hypnotic duet with guitarist and musical director
Randy Jacobs – there wasn’t much smooth in the set – a fanciful, even triumphant testament to
the feel good, celebratory vibes the genre and its top stars generate in the live setting. In addition to making potentially every performance a blazing horn ensemble experience, the “And Friends” designation allows for great variety, with Koz alternating his own hits (from the recent “Highwire” - which opened the show - to the ever-charming radio format classics “Together Again” and “You Make Me Smile”) with audience faves from his cohorts – in this lineup, those aforementioned Dulfer gems and Darius’ “That’s My Jam” and first hit single “Night on the Town.”

Likewise, famed R&B singer Jeffrey Osborne, who has gleefully become part of the urban-leaning smooth jazz world in recent years, brought all the vocal prowess and charismatic dazzle of his L.T.D. and solo hitmaking days on explosive renditions of his trademark romantic funk jam “Stay With Me Tonight” and L.T.D.’s “Back in Love Again.” Generally, the repertoire in a Koz & Friends show is all about crowd-pleasing re-imaginings of back in the day classics – and they did it expertly on this night via Maysa’s engaging silky-soul vocals on the sizzling Earth, Wind & Fire arrangement of “Got To Get You Into My Life” and the blistering finale “Pick Up the Pieces.” But one of the nicest surprises of the show was giving Maysa a spotlight (right after the rousing “Got To Get You…”) to sing her latest single, the heartfelt and personal “Runnin’ From Myself.”

It takes a proverbial village to create a smooth jazz extravaganza, so mention must be made of
the Koz & Friends band, including the aforementioned stalwart Jacobs, keyboardist Carnell
Harrell, DJ Russell Gatewood (who played snippets of a few David Sanborn classics at a relevant
moment!), bassist Chris Snowden and especially, South African born, 20 year old drummer
Jamie-Leigh Schultz, who had a blast soloing, then duetting with Koz’s percussive horn on an
extended version of “Together Again.”

No doubt the audience would have been happy with three and a half hours of Koz & Friends, but
this being a festival format, the other artists on the bill – openers Jazz Funk Soul and then the
always dapper and eternally hipster Morris Day - held some powerful sway during their lengthy
sets. Jazz Funk Soul aka the all-star trio of keyboardist Jeff Lorber, saxophonist Everette Harp
and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., got down to “More Serious Business” (opening with the title track
of their 2016 album) in presenting the edgier and artsier harmonic and improvisational
possibilities of contemporary jazz amidst the funky grooves.

Day and the Time’s hour-long set was cheerfully and emphatically dominated by his snappy
dance moves, original member Jellybean Johnson’s effervescent jangling rhythm and blazing
electric guitarisma and a well-received interlude of “Purple Rain” featuring film clips of Prince
on the video screens. All leading of course to the band’s most memorable dance romps from that
film, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”