Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns Live
Featuring Candy Dulfer and Eric Darius
Florida Theatre, Friday June 30, 8pm. $45-$79
Words by Shelton Hull
After all these years on the road, playing venues from one side of the world to the other, Dave Koz has got himself a system, a reliable network of venues in every region that have earned his love, and which get priority status whenever it’s time to book the next tour. For Northeast Florida, that venue is the Florida Theatre, where he’ll be bringing his Summer Horns 2023 tour this Friday, June 30. “Summer Horns” began as a 2003 album recorded with Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliott. A sequel was released in 2018.
Joining Koz for this incarnation of the project are two of the leading exponents of the form, saxophonists Candy Dulfer and Eric Darius. “Eric Darius is a young man,” says Koz. “Actually, he’s 40, but I’ve known him since he was a kid.” He was a child prodigy, a New Jersey native who studied at USF. Dulfer was similarly prodigious, mostly self-taught, who’d already worked with artists like Prince, Pink Floyd, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Madonna before she was even old enough to drink. The daughter of Dutch jazz legend Hans Dulfer, she was touring the world when Koz was still a rookie, and the two have been friends for decades. Both were out there touring, in their early teens. “These two saxophonists are dear friends of mine,” he says, “but we’ve never played together.”
This current run through Florida (which also includes dates in Orlando and Clearwater) comes at a most tumultuous time for this state, and its LGBTQIA community, which has been under stiff pressure from the governor and the various goobers, goofballs and goons who follow him. “As a gay man, I watch this stuff very carefully,” says Koz, who first came out in The Advocate back in 2004. “But music is a way to bring people together.”
Koz pushes back strongly against the popular perception that “smooth jazz” is less technically complex than other variants of the genre. Tempos may be slower, but the chops are still there.
“The term ‘smooth jazz’ refers to a format of radio stations,” he says. As one might expect, given his role as one of the leading smooth jazz artists of the past 40 years,Koz excels at explanation. That’s hardly surprising, given that he majored in mass communications at UCLA.
After graduating in 1986, Koz took his first real professional gig, backing up the great Bobby Caldwell, whose passing back in March inspired tributes from all over the music world, including from Koz himself. His self-titled debut album was released by Capitol Records in May 1990, making him an instant star in the jazz world, at a time when the music was entering an era of critical and commercial acclaim, attributable to a round of valedictory projects by numerous jazz legends, as well as the rise of new talent like Koz. It was the first of 20 studio albums under his name, usually for the Capitol or Concord Jazz labels, but also smaller labels like Artistry and Rendezvous, which he started in 2002. The last three were released digitally on his own Just Koz imprint.
Koz’ versatility was put on full display on The Golden Hour, a collaboration with guitarist Cory Wong, self-released in June 2021. As a charter member of Vulfpeck, all of whose members are band-leaders in their own right, Wong rolls deep in one of the most diverse and dynamic crews of creators working today, and it says a lot about Dave Koz that he fits in so well with them. “If you’ve played on a Vulfpeck album,” he says, “everyone is an equal profit participant.” Koz even performed at Vulfpeck’s now-legendary Madison Square Garden concert, which was arguably the last truly great concert before the pandemic era began.
He’ll be touring the country with the Summer Horns project through July 22, after which the next two weeks are set aside for one of his favorite projects: his annual cruise, which this year will be centered on Luxembourg from July 25 through August 8. He’s been running his own annual cruise since 2005, and 2024 is already sold out. “It’s like a floating jazz festival,” he says. “For me, it’s the most creative part of my year. It’s like summer camp for adults!”
And then it’s back to America, and back on the road, resuming the Summer Horns tour through the fall, followed by yet another of his annual traditions: his “Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour”, which he’d previously brought to the Florida Theatre last December 1. No matter what the project or format is, Dave Koz approaches every opportunity with equal vigor, and the results speak for themselves. “Music has a way of seeping into your soul,” he says. “We’re all in this together.”