Dave Koz – Live at the Blue Note Tokyo

Saxophonist Dave Koz has been recording as a solo artist since 1990. During that time he’s issued more than a dozen albums of surprising variety, and has been nominated eight times for Grammy Awards. In an age when the live album has become a compulsory thing for artists who sometimes have only a single studio album to draw from, Koz waited until now to issue his first concert date, Live at the Blue Note Tokyo (recorded in 2011), which finds the saxophonist backed by a stellar quintet that includes musical director Brian Simpson on keyboards, guitarist Randy Jacobs, drummer Jay Williams, bassist André Berry, and Tio Banks on additional keyboards. The set was recorded impeccably by the gifted engineer Melissa Britton, who captured all of the spontaneity and warmth on display that evening. The material includes a number of excellent versions of tunes from Koz’s then-current studio album, 2010’s excellent Hello Tomorrow (“What You Leave Behind,” “Anything’s Possible,” “Put the Top Down”) and some killer new takes on catalog jams including “Together Again” and the hit “Love Is on the Way” from 1999’s The Dance; “All I See Is You” and “Honey-Dipped” from 2003’s Saxophonic; and even the funky “Silverlining,” the ballad “Faces of the Heart” (which became the theme song for the soap opera General Hospital for a time), and an extended jam on “You Make Me Smile,” all from 1993’s Lucky Man. The stellar playing and the obvious love affair that takes place between audience and performers on Live at the Blue Note Tokyo make Koz’s first live album one of his catalog’s highlights.