For his latest endeavour, super smooth sax man Dave Koz has enlisted a top trio of saxophone players to be his “Friends”. They are Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair and Richard Elliot and between them they’ve recorded a 12 track homage to the great horn sections and horn-based songs that pepper jazz and soul’s history. So, the quartet have dipped into the back catalogues of outfits like Earth Wind and Fire, Sly and The Family Stone, and Tower Of Power and created a set that creates a great summer vibe … just perfect for the smooth jazz stations, who, I’m sure, will put most of the set on heavy rotation.
Soul folk will go straight to the set’s big vocal – a Michael McDonald-led version of Tower Of Power’s ‘So Very Hard To Go’. It’s big and bold and Big Mac offers his usual faultless performance – but to these old ears it lacks a little of the passion of the original. It’s clean and slick and without the rough edges of the original it just loses a little of its magic. And really that’s the problem with the album. It’s all just a little too antiseptic and respectable – cut to the cover of James Brown’s ‘I Got You’ to hear what I mean. Of course, though, that’s the nature of smooth jazz and there’s nothing wrong with that … there’ll be a big audience out there who’ll lap up covers of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, ‘Reasons’, ‘Always There’ and ‘Rise’ and the other featured vocalists – Jeffery “George” Osborne (on ‘God Bless The Child’… an odd choice, I thought) and Jonathan Butler (on ‘You Haven’t Done Nothin’ ‘) do exactly what they’re paid to do.
The set boasts one original tune, by the way. It’s the album’s title cut and it’s a breezy little sunshine-inspired vibe that perfectly represents the ethos behind the long player.