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Summer Horns tour puts smooth jazz back in summer

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
From left, Mindi Abair, Dave Koz, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot are leading the Summer Horns tour. APA Agency

Dave Koz is well aware he and his three saxophone cohorts were going far out on a limb with their “Summer Horns” tour.

“Can you imagine putting a tour together and arranging for an album without ever having worked together?” he says. “But, as soon as we got together, it was obvious it was going to work.”

The result is a summer-long tour of a band featuring four smooth-jazz sax stars: Koz, Mindi Abair, Richard Elliot and Gerald Albright. It will appear here July 12 at the Sewall Center of Robert Morris University in Moon.

“It has the feeling of a summer tour,” he says. “The songs are familiar, happy, fun, nostalgic.”

The band explores new material as well as redone arrangements of such hits as Sly and the Family Stone's “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” the Beatles' “Got to Get You Into My Life” and Chicago's “25 or 6 to 4.”

It is a tour that has been swinging through festivals and performing-arts centers, often playing in an outside setting that fits the picnic-like fun of this music.

“We've been on the road three weeks now and have a little break,” he says. “I just can't wait to get back to it.”

But he enjoys other work as well. He recently did what he says is a nearly annual gig in a small club in London called the Pizza Express.

“It seats about 105 people and is jammed,” he says. “It is just great.”

Koz, 50, grew up in California and got a communications degree from UCLA. He started making a name for himself as a musician, though, in the band of singer-composer Bobby Caldwell, who started to put Koz's solos in a featured role.

“I didn't plan on playing sax as a career, and, all of a sudden, he had me up there at the front of the stage,” he says.

His style of playing and the music he presents are shaped by what he listened to in his teen years, he says: the horn-oriented bands of Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

After Caldwell, he joined Jeff Lorber, a smooth-jazz star who once had Kenny G as a sideman.

He moved into a solo career in 1990 and also has done radio and TV shows, founded a recording company and leads jazz cruises.

He says he is thankful — and a little surprised — to have put together a career in music.

“It's been 23 years of a very satisfying life,” he says of his solo stretch. “If something happened tomorrow that I would have to quit, I couldn't be anything but grateful.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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