When saxophonist Dave Koz comes to the Valley to play a Christmas show, he’s doing more than showing off his talents.
He’s helping critically injured kids at Maricopa Medical Center’s Burn Center through the Starlight Children’s Foundation, to which he’ll donate a Nintendo Fun Center and playful hospital gowns.
“The Nintendo Fun Center connects the kids with the outside world,” said Koz, who has raised $1 million for the Starlight Foundation. “It allows kids to be kids for a while.
“Hospital gowns are so drab and depressing. Starlight created this new line of children’s hospital gowns. I helped design the one we’re donating right now. One hundred of those beautiful Starlight children’s hospital gowns will be going to the Arizona Burn Center. I’m very honored to make those donations to the hospital.”
On the music side, Koz is bringing his Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour 2018 to the Mesa Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 15. Mindi Abair, pop/blues saxophonist/singer; South African guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler; Japanese keyboardist Keiko Matsui; and up and coming vocalist Sheléa, who also appeared on Koz’s album “Summer Horns II From A To Z,” join Koz, a Grammy-nominated saxophonist.
“Last year was the 20th anniversary and the original cast came back,” Koz said. “This year, half of the cast has never done the tour. It’s a jolt of new energy.
“One returnee is my partner in crime Jonathan Butler. We have the best time. He’s almost the co-host of the show. Returning for the third time is Keiko Matsui, who adds a tremendous elegance to the show. Mindi Abair has been a friend for many years. She brings a certain blues swagger that works perfectly with Christmastime.
“Then, we’re introducing Sheléa, who was discovered by Quincy Jones and has been on the road with Stevie Wonder, David Foster and Take 6. She’s an unbelievable vocal talent. She’s as close to a Whitney Houston as I’ve seen since Whitney’s passing.”
The tour has received nationwide critical acclaim since its 1997 inception. Koz’s 2018 Christmas Tour brings fresh renditions of Christmas classics and hits from his catalog. Koz has logged nine No. 1 albums on Billboard’s current contemporary jazz album chart, including 2015’s “Collaborations: 25th Anniversary Collection,” and received nine Grammy nominations. His five holiday albums include 2017’s “Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas” and 2014’s “The 25th of December.”
“I’m a real collaborative spirit,” Koz said. “I love to work with other artists and see what they can bring to the party. That’s my October, meeting with artists and finding out what they want to do, how we can collaborate and how best to achieve their vision.”
Koz, who is Jewish, enjoys his tour and plans to continue as long as fans keep coming.
“Last year we had a sold-out show in Mesa, and this year it’s on track to do the same,” he said. “I love Christmas music. I’m Jewish, so it’s kind of funny. I was raised on Christmas music. I love these people and the songs.
“Christmas songs have so much meat on their bones. We do them every year in a new way. They’re so good. Most of us crave that familiarity at Christmastime. These songs have been around forever and carry such weight for us. They’re emotional pieces of music that remind us of very emotional experiences. We’re happy to oblige.”