How did a nice Jewish boy from California’s San Fernando Valley get to be so associated with Christmas?
“It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, I’ll be honest with you,” says Dave Koz. “I was raised Jewish, and even though I don’t really practice Judaism still, I’m Jewish in my core. I grew up celebrating Hanukkah with my family, and one of my favorite pastimes was going to friends’ houses and lighting the Christmas tree. That’s where I first was exposed to all this great music.”
The acclaimed jazz saxophonist fell head-over-heels in love with holiday music. But he hadn’t really performed much until 1997, the year his father passed away.
“A fellow artist’s mother had passed away a couple of weeks before my dad,” Koz recalls. “We were commiserating, and he said to me, ‘I’m kind of freaking out about the holidays — I’m not ready for it. What about maybe going out and playing some shows? We could do some holiday music.”‘ I was like, ‘That’s a really nice idea.’ It sounded very comforting to me.”
Twenty-three years and seven Christmas albums later, Koz is still on the Holiday road every December. This year’s tour stop at Strathmore, Monday, Dec. 9, will feature special guests Jonathan Butler, Michael Lington, Chris Walker, and the incomparable Melissa Manchester. All appear on Koz’s latest release, Gifts of the Season.
“They’re not just songs,” Koz, who came out in 2004, says of the popularity of vast holiday canon. “Many are from hundreds of years ago. We’ve been listening to them for so long, they’re in our collective DNA as human beings. They’re ancestral. They’re almost like prayers, really. Emotions come through the songs. That, to me, is the power of music in general, but specifically the power of holiday music to capture a piece of your heart.
“With holiday music, we always gravitate to the nostalgia. We may have heard a song a thousand times, but come Thanksgiving, you want to hear those same songs again. It’s like musical comfort food, or the sweater you were given by your grandmother forty years ago that you should throw away, it’s got a bunch of holes in it, but it makes you feel good. And so we go back to those things that make us feel good and remind us of more innocent times.”
The Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour 2019 stops at Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, on Monday, Dec. 9. Tickets are $54 to $99. Special $199 VIP packages are available, including a pre-show meet and greet with Dave Koz. Call 301-581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
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