April 9, 2009, and only forty eight hours after arriving in London, Brian Simpson, Dave Koz and Nick Colionne had incredibly transformed themselves from being three of the most successful solo contemporary jazz artists of recent times into what might yet prove to be the hottest smooth jazz super-group that the genre has ever produced. In town to play the second of six sell out shows at the legendary Pizza Express Jazz Club, and bolstered by the impressive content of their collective discography, the fact they blew the doors off with a delicious amalgam of energy, sensitivity and outstanding artistry was all the more remarkable for the fact that before flying in from the USA they had never previously shared the same stage.
Months of planning and electronically sharing each others music had clearly brought them to exactly the same creative page and as the show opened with the Koz classic ‘Honey Dipped’ from his Saxophonic collection there was little doubt that the audience was in for a considerable treat. When the spotlight switched to Colionne for the title track of his current CD No Limits the contribution of Koz on sax was nothing short of explosive and as Colionne went to the Keepin It Cool album for the sizzling ‘High Flyin’ it opened up the opportunity for more high energy input from Dave Koz.
In recent years Brian Simpson has added to being the consummate sideman and long time Musical Director for Dave Koz by becoming one of the most impressive soloists on the scene today. His 2005 It’s All Good (his first for fully ten years) was a runaway hit and both the title track and the equally delightful ‘It Could Happen’ had the Pizza Express crowd in raptures. ‘What Cha Gonna Do’ from the current CD Beyond The Clouds engendered a similar reaction but he was perhaps at his extraordinary best with the seductive ‘Let’s Get Close’. Word is that Simpson will have a brand new album ready for the Spring of 2010 which, with an incredible array of guest performers already promised, looks all set to take him ‘three for three’.
Throughout his career Dave Koz has never been slow to identify new ways to spread the message of contemporary jazz. The hugely accessible CD At The Movies is a case in point and at the Pizza Express his wonderful interpretation of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ created an interlude of spellbinding beauty. His 1999 album The Dance remains as one of his best and its massive hit ‘Together Again’ brought back memories of the last visit Koz made to London, in November 1999, with the Guitars and Saxes show. He went all the way back to 1993 for ‘You Make Me Smile’ from his Lucky Man project and in so doing afforded the opportunity for bass player Frank Felix to really shine. The line-up was completed by drummer Tony Mason who is best known for his work with Incognito and when the band returned to ‘The Dance’ for ‘I’ll Be There’ it was Mason who delivered with an exceptionally cool drum solo.
This former Jacksons hit proved to be the perfect encore number but, truth to tell, ‘show-stoppers’ were everywhere. Nick Colionne’s superb rendition of the Stylistics hit ‘Hurry Up This Way’ (with Simpson outstanding on keys) was magical but anyone who had previously seen Colionne play live would have gambled on the performance of the night being his marvellous vocal version of the 1970 Brook Benton hit ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’. From the CD Keepin It Cool it proved to be exactly that and, although sequenced for relatively early in the show, set a benchmark that lesser players would not have been able to maintain. As it was the standard remained astonishingly high throughout and turned this, the latest in a sequence of smooth jazz events promoted by the internet radio network Sky FM, into one of the best live shows imaginable.Posted by Denis Poole at May 13, 2009 10:19 PM