Dave Koz and Friends Deliver The Heat on ‘Summer Horns’

Summer Horns
Summer Horns

There’s an old addage that says there’s strength in numbers, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to bringing four of the greatest saxophone players together for the very first time.

Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot & Gerald Albright each have had successful albums and tours in their own right, but for the Summer Horns project, Koz and friends join forces to create a truly one of a kind, all star section, and an album that tips it hat to an era when classic, big horn, feel good songs ruled the airwaves.

Among the songs included on Summer Horns are slick renditions of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” as well as the Lennon/McCartney classic “Got To Get Get You Into My Life” (the latter of which borrowing a bit from the Earth, Wind and Fire arrangement). There’s also a tribute to Dave Brubek with a version of “Take Five”, one of the greatest sax melodies of all time.

Trombonist Brian Culbertson makes a guest appearance on a cover of the 1969 Sly & the Family Stone hit, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”. Jeffrey Osbourne delivers a powerful version of the Blood Sweat Tears inspired “God Bless The Child”. And Michael McDonald contributes a version of Tower of Power’s “So Very Hard to Go” that is quite possibly one of his all time best vocal performances. To coincide with the release of “Summer Horns”, the group will be taking their unique sectional sound on tour across the country.

Summer Horns not only offers the listener material that covers the real breadth of the instrument, but it also features songs with a little more “meat on the bone”. Sure, it’s a tribute to summer and good times, but more importantly, Summer Horns is an album about the real power of friendship.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dave Koz about Summer Horns as well as his thoughts on the importance of music programs in the public school system.

Koz and Friends (l to r): Richard Elliot, Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright
Koz and Friends (l to r): Richard Elliot, Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright        (Photo: Greg Allen)

What made you decide to do this type of album?

It was an opportunity for us to do something special and different for all of our fans and also a labor of love. The interesting thing was that even though we were always big fans of each others work, we had never all been in the studio together before. The four of us have such a great love and appreciation for this era of music. We all come from the same perspective of having been reared on horn section songs and horn bands.

How did you determine which songs to include?

We initially saw this as a total party record, but the more we got into it the more we realized that we had four saxophone players (each with our own unique individual sound) coming together to create this completely new horn section sound. So we decided to dig a little bit deeper and find some real melodic gems. The songs themselves are familiar, but they’re songs you may not have heard in a while. They’re classics, but they sound new and fresh.

What was it like recording the album?

We didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so we enlisted the talents of some amazing arrangers. We brought in Greg Adams (the principal arranger for Tower of Power) and Tom Scott (who’s worked with Quincy Jones and Paul McCartney among others). We really didn’t know what to expect, but I remember the first day we were recording. We all got on our mikes and were side by side and heard the sound that the four of us made to generate the section for the first time, and it was a moment of complete excitement and elation. That was the sound that we mined for this record.

What do you think makes jazz such a great genre of music?

By nature, it’s ever-changing. The target is always moving and there’s never a set standard show that you do day in and day out. It’s that element of chance and being in the moment that makes it so exciting and inspiring. It’s a surprise every night, at every show. 

Dave Koz (photo: Greg Allen)
Dave Koz (photo: Greg Allen)

What are your thoughts on how music programs in schools are disappearing?

I’m a 100% product of the public school system and first picked up the sax in 7th grade. There was a saxophone class and a band and a teacher all there. That option was open for me at 13 years old. At the time, I had no idea that this would be my life’s work. but at least the opportunity was there for me to experience it. The thought that might not be the case for kids now weighs heavy on my heart, because where will the next generation of musicians come from?

It’s not just instrumental music, but also choir, drama and all of the other arts as well. Art is what keeps this country alive and moving forward. It’s also a great socialization tool. The sax is what brought me out of my shell. I was so awkward as a kid, and it really became my trusted ally. I’d love to see more kids be able to find their own “saxophone” or expression to help them become a more full human being. 

Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns will be released on June 11th, 2013
For more on Dave Koz, visit his official website by Clicking Here.

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