A few weeks ago Dave Koz was holed up in a Burbank studio, rehearsing for his Christmas tour with Oleta Adams, Jonathan Butler and Keiko Matsui, set to arrive at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday Dec. 17.
The colored lights were strung and the California temperatures had dropped to a point of resembling a season other than summer.
"It's the first day it feels like Christmas!" Koz said during a break in practice.
The genial saxophone player, a hallmark of the smooth jazz genre since 1990, is into his 16th year fronting an annual holiday tour.
He's also spreading some cheer of a nonmusical kind in each city the tour will visit.
On his recent Dave Koz & Friends at Sea cruise to Greece and Italy, cruise-goers raised $100,000 during a silent auction for the Starlight Children's Foundation. In each city the Christmas tour visits, 1/20th of the money — $5,000 in the form of three iPads and $500 for "wish list" items — will be dispersed.
During a recent chat, Koz, 50, also talked about what fans can expect from this year's show, how he keeps motivated and why he loves Janelle Monae and Snoop Dogg.
<strong>Q: You've been doing this tour for 16 years now. How do you keep it fresh for yourself?</strong>
<strong> A:</strong> It really helps to switch our casts and have new people every year. Jonathan has done many of our tours and is so incredibly talented, but Oleta is brand-new to us. I've known her for so many years, but we've never worked together. Her voice is so appropriate with Christmas music. Keiko did the show about five years ago and is back. It's like casting a movie, finding people who have that great energy and vibe. Especially this year, it's like a Benetton ad. But that's the beauty of Christmas music because these songs are so great, the melodies are more than just words on the page — they're beacons for our memories.
<strong>Q: And the show pretty much sticks to the classics, right? </strong>
<strong> A:</strong> I've found over the years that holiday songs are musical comfort food, like "White Christmas," "The Christmas Song." After 16 years of Christmas tours and four Christmas albums, you'd think I'd tire of it. But I grew up Jewish, so we never celebrated Christmas growing up. I think it's kind of funny that a nice Jewish boy from the Valley has become synonymous with Christmas tours.
<strong>Q: Tell me about the production aspect of the show. What will people be seeing? </strong>
<strong> A:</strong> About five years ago, we really started to incorporate video. It adds a lot, being able to incorporate some classic stuff as well. Last year for "White Christmas," we used a clip of Bing Crosby singing it. And when David Benoit did the "Peanuts" music, we had a little clip of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
<strong>Q: What is the format of the show?</strong>
<strong> A:</strong> We each come out and then do a big chunk of holiday music together and then each person has a chance to do a song or two of their own throughout the night. It's about 70 percent Christmas music. We have a four-piece backing band and a little surprise this year, a violinist.