Dave Koz – Summer Horns

Nine-time GRAMMY® nominee Dave Koz remembers a time when the summers lasted forever, and the most popular rock, R&B, soul and funk bands of the day were propelled by high-octane, richly arranged horn sections. Indeed, from the late 1960s through the ‘70s, bands like Sly & the Family Stone, Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears and other brassy juggernauts of the era ruled the airwaves and opened his young ears to the saxophone’s limitless possibilities as a solo instrument as well as a collaborative voice with the trumpet and trombone.

Four decades later, Koz has assembled three of his most talented and trusted colleagues – Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair – to revisit this golden age with new arrangements of classic songs from this period in the history of popular music. Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns, produced by Paul Brown (Al Jarreau, George Benson, June Tabor, Boney James), is a collaborative effort that throws the spotlight on four high-profile saxophonists, and augments the team with several other equally talented musicians and vocalists. Summer Horns, set for release on June 11, 2013, on Concord Records, turns up the heat just in time for the summer tour season.

Summer Horns is the first studio album from Dave Koz since 2010’s Hello Tomorrow. That said, it’s not solely billed to him. The “and Friends” on the bill refers to three other contemporary jazz saxophonists: Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, and Richard Elliot. Produced by Paul Brown, this is a big up-front horn section record, full of jazz, funk, and R&B covers, alternately by Greg Adams, Tom Scott, Gordon Goodwin, and Albright. The four-sax line is augmented by brass in various places, too. While Brown’s production sound stays within the genre of contemporary jazz — it’s both clean and bright — the feel is all groove. Early on there is a finger-popping open-road vibe in the take on Herb Alpert’s “Rise,” and an atypical jazzy read of Sly Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” with Brian Culbertson adding a trombone solo and chorus vocals by Jonathan Butler and Jeffrey Osborne. Abair’s lead alto on the cover of Paul Desmond’s iconic “Take Five” is slippery and warm, and rides the time signature beautifully; the multi-horn arrangement by Goodwin, with its layered and interweaving solos and upright bass in place of the piano and drums, is a nice touch. Michael McDonald’s vocal on Tower of Power’s “So Very Hard to Go” is every bit as soulful as the Motown covers on his own records. Koz’s lead alto breaks are tasty. Adams’ chart substitutes elegance for grittiness, but the emotion remains. While Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” and James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” suffer a tad for their lack of wildness, both have interesting guitar touches and fine solos by Koz and Albright, respectively. Led by Elliot’s expressive tenor, Charles Stepney and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Reasons” is a groove-laden midtempo babymaker and a set high point. Rick Braun’s trumpet solo and Butler’s gospel moaning vocal turn Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” into one of the set’s dancefloor shakers. Albright’s horn chart is funky, chunky, and righteous. The lone original here is the title track. It’s pure contemporary jazz, with Koz delivering a nice soprano solo followed by Elliot’s fine tenor break. Lenny Castro’s percussion and Roberto Vally’s bassline keep the groove fluid and deep. Summer Horns doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is: a good-time record that sounds like it was as much fun to make as it is to listen to.

GRAMMY Awards

Year Category Peak
2014 Best Pop Instrumental Nominee

Billboard Charts

Year Chart Peak
2013 Jazz Albums 2
2013 The Billboard 200 84