The "Summer Horns" tour, featuring smooth-jazz saxophonists Dave Koz, Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot, is coming Friday to Robert Morris University in Moon. The album of the same name, which comprises mostly covers of fairly well-known songs by horn-based bands of the 1970s, was released last month. Mr. Koz, who assembled this project, shares his thoughts.
How, and when, did the concept of the "Summer Horns" get started?
It's an idea that's been floating around in my head for a long time, given the fact that horn-section bands were essentially my "musical DNA." I grew up listening to all these groups -- [Earth, Wind & Fire], Tower of Power, Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, etc. So it really was a matter of timing, and it just seemed like this was the time to do it. I approached the other sax players last fall and all of them shared my excitement about the project and we just dove in. I think the important factor that really made this album, and tour, work is our mutual respect and admiration not just for each other but for the music we were re-imagining together.
How easy was it to get the three other saxophonists? Were they your first choices?
They were indeed! And it was a simple phone call to each of them -- all signed on for the whole project, the record first and then the tour. Funny though, here we were, all agreeing to spending this large chunk of time together, and even though we all knew each other well, none of us had really ever played together, so there was no guarantee at all that any of this would work! I think we all let out a huge sigh of relief that first day in the studio when we heard how the four of us sound together -- it was a sweet but powerful blend, unique and unusual and we knew immediately it would work.
How well has the new record been received?
It's been really fun to see how people are gravitating to this music. It's been out for three weeks now, and it's been at No. 1 since its release, and the first single [the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life," the arrangement based on EWF's cover] just went to No. 1! Not just in jazz, but in pop music now, we're seeing a return to the wide usage of horns -- it's a sound that never really goes out of style, but it's always great to see a resurgence. The "Summer Horns" album is made up of all well-known songs that take the listener back to a sort of "golden age" of music. So in many ways this album is nostalgic, while at the same time its giving listeners a chance to hear these classic songs in a new way, refashioned for the times we're living in. I loved recording this project, we all did -- and it seems to really be striking a chord, which makes us all very happy indeed.
The New York Times ran a story on Sunday about the state of "smooth jazz." How has that affected what you do -- recording, touring, all that stuff?
We do what we do and hope that somehow the music reaches the people who want to hear it. The music business has changed so much since I started in 1990, it's almost unrecognizable. But the one constant for me has been continuing to create and do new things, not only challenging myself but in the process, but endeavoring to provide something new for the audience as well. Radio and retail and touring -- it's all such a different landscape now, but the music is still connecting. Whether it's on our yearly jazz cruise we produce, or at live shows, or on Facebook -- thankfully, the fans are still there, excited about what we're doing. We just have to be more creative in how we reach them nowadays. It's a challenge for sure, but I am always up for finding a way.
Rick Nowlin: email@example.com or 412-263-3871.