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Summer Horns
Dave Koz and friends come to Ruth Eckerd Hall
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Photo courtesy RUTH ECKERD HALL
From left, Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, and Richard Elliot are touring again in support of the 2013 album “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns.” They will perform June 27 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
CLEARWATER – In what is becoming a summertime tradition, Dave Koz has called upon his favorite musical cohorts once again and is heading out on the road for a series of concerts. The foursome – Koz, Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot – returns for another tour in 2014.

Dave Koz Summer Horns will make a stop in the Tampa Bay area Friday, June 27, 8 p.m., at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater.

Tickets start at $35. Call 791-7400 or visit www.r­uthec­kerdh­all.c­om.

When these four acclaimed saxophonists toured together last summer in support of the 2013 CD “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns,” they looked at it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As it turns out, the foursome had such a blast on the tour that they are happily obliging fans’ requests for a return of the Summer Horns.

Koz and friends even received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album for “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns.” Released last summer, the album was produced by Paul Brown (Al Jarreau, George Benson, June Tabor) and spent five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. The album’s first single, a rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s “Got To Get You Into My Life,” spent seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz chart and was nominated for a Soul Train award.

According to a press release from Concord Music Group promoting the album release, Koz – an eight-time Grammy nominee – 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.

From the late 1960s through the 1970s, 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.

“This was our chance to honor that era of great horn sections with a big tip of our hat and say ‘thank you’ to those who were responsible for it,” said Koz on his website. “I hope people feel the reverence that we all have for this music and the great bands that made it.”

To craft the album, Koz assembled three of his most talented and trusted colleagues. Albright, Elliot and Abair collaborated with Koz to revisit the golden age of powerful horn sections. Boasting new arrangements of classic songs from this period in the history of popular music, “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns” showcased the talents of these four high-profile saxophonists. The album also features several other equally talented musicians and vocalists – including guest appearances by trumpeter/flugelhornist Rick Braun, trombonist Brian Culbertson, and three seasoned vocalists: Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne and Jonathan Butler.

“The first album I ever bought was ‘Back To Oakland,’ the 1974 recording by Tower of Power,” said Koz. “I’ve always been fascinated with that sound. There are few things in music that are as exciting as the energy that comes from a really tight horn section. Over the years, that sound has graced some of the greatest records of all time by bands like Sly & the Family Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, and so many others. That’s what Gerald, Richard, Mindi and I are recreating on this recording.”

Koz explained that the arrangers are just as important as the musicians on “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns.”

“We were very lucky to have horn arrangers on this project who wrote charts for a lot of those landmark records that I remember,” he said in the press release. “That includes Greg Adams, who was the chief horn arranger for Tower of Power during its heyday, and Tom Scott, who is not only a fantastic saxophonist in his own right, but also wrote charts for Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and so many others. We also had Gordon Goodwin, who is more of a modern-day horn arranger with his own Big Phat Band.”

The passion and enthusiasm that Koz demonstrates on all fronts of his diverse career are evident in every note of Summer Horns.

The track listing includes songs such as the upbeat and breezy “Always There,” a Ronnie Laws composition; a rendition of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” that closely mirrors the arrangement laid down in the hit 1978 cover of the song by Earth Wind & Fire; Tower of Power’s “So Very Hard To Go” featuring vocals by Michael McDonald; and “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” the 1969 hit for Sly & the Family Stone, which features a guest appearance by trombonist Brian Culbertson.

“Musical collaborations have become quite common these days, but never before have I been involved in a project as unique as Summer Horns,” said Elliot. “For me, what made this project so special was the blending of four distinct saxophones styles into one unique sound while still maintaining the individuality of each artist.”

Elliot, a Scotland-born, L.A.-raised saxman, was still touring with Tower of Power when he released his debut album “Trolltown” in 1986. Embarking upon one of instrumental music’s most dynamic and multifaceted careers, he has scored four No. 1 albums, including “On The Town,” “Soul Embrace,” “After Dark” and “Jumpin’ Off” as well as a growing number of No. 1 airplay singles.

In addition to his participation in all-star tours like Groovin’ For Grover and Jazz Attack, in the mid ’90s he helped launch another of the genre’s annual franchises, the Guitars & Saxes tours, which he has participated in on and off ever since. At his peak, Elliot was doing more than 100 tour dates a year, but he has scaled it back as his family has grown to include five children over the years.

“Working with Dave, Mindi and Gerald was truly a pleasure,” Elliot said. “The combination of focus, commitment, fun and camaraderie made this an experience I will cherish forever.”

Albright is eager to take the music on the road again this summer.

“The idea of involving four different styles of playing into one blended unit was very intriguing to me, and the end result was wonderful,” he said. “The care, consideration and creativity employed in this effort was second to none. I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with Dave, Mindi and Richard this summer.”

A native Californian, Albright grew up in South Central Los Angeles. After high school, he attended the University of Redlands where he received a bachelor’s degree in business management, minoring in music.

Albright's self-produced music has established him as one of the most prominent contemporary jazz artists. Albright was one of the 10 featured saxophonists who performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. He has sold more than 1,000,000 albums in the United States.

For Abair, it’s all about the pride that comes with collaborating with talented peers.

“Imagine standing at a microphone shoulder-to-shoulder with three of your favorite saxophonist every day in the studio,” she said. “It was such an inspiring way to make a record, playing off each other and pushing each other to take chances musically.”

Abair – originally from St. Petersburg – has toured and/or recorded with dozens of artists, such as the Backstreet Boys, Duran Duran, Mandy Moore, Josh Groban, Adam Sandler, Keb' Mo', Lalah Hathaway, Lee Ritenour, Teena Marie, John Tesh, Bobby Lyle, Jonathan Butler, Peter White, Rick Braun and Aerosmith.

In a career that spans seven solo albums and countless collaborations in the studio and live on stage, Abair has made her mark on a broad stretch of the musical landscape that includes jazz, pop, rock, R&B, soul, funk and more. The powerhouse saxophonist/vocalist has made scores of friends along the way and earned the respect of top-shelf artists representing every one of the aforementioned genres.

In addition to her acclaimed body of solo work that includes 10 No. 1 radio hits and close to half a million albums sold, Abair was the featured saxophonist on the 2011 and 2012 seasons of “American Idol.”

Her latest recording, “Wild Heart,” was released May 27 on Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group. In crafting the album, Abair enlisted colleagues in rock and pop circles as collaborators to create something that stretches her beyond the contemporary instrumental groove that has characterized some of her earlier recordings. “Wild Heart” opens with the upbeat “Amazing Game,” a track co-written by Abair and Grammy-winning songwriter Jim Peterik, the latter a pop/rock veteran who penned the Ides of March hit single “Vehicle” in 1970, and later Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” in 1982. “Amazing Game” also features swaggering horn lines courtesy of Trombone Shorty.

As busy as she is with her own new music, Abair found time to join Koz and friends to record “Dave Koz and Friends Summer Horns” – and she is more than happy to continue to contribute to the foursome by joining the Summer Horns tour.

“It was amazing to see a record emerge that maintained all of our individuality as players, yet really blended into this cohesive section,” Abair said in a press release. “I couldn’t be prouder of this collaboration with Dave, Gerald and Richard.”

“There are a lot of levels to this album,” said Koz. “There’s tremendous musicianship, and there’s a lot of thought that went into the arrangements. But by the same token, it’s primarily meant to make the listener feel good.”

As the album nears its one-year anniversary, the four acclaimed saxophonists are preparing to head out on their second summer tour together. The cross-country headline run will kick off on June 26 at The Florida Theatre in Jacksonville before heading on to the Tampa Bay area for the show at Ruth Eckerd Hall on June 27.

“These are songs of a certain era, and if you are of a certain age, you’re going to listen to them and immediately recognize them,” Koz said. “It’s meant to remind you of a time when that sound was everywhere. This was our chance to honor that era of great horn sections with a big tip of our hat and say ‘thank you’ to those who were responsible for it. I hope people feel the reverence that we all have for this music and the great bands that made it.”
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