Say what you will about the musical value of “smooth jazz,” Dave Koz can teach his colleagues in any genre a lot in terms of the sheer ability to put on a show. This was the second “Smooth Summer Night” tour for Dave Koz and Friends, a confederation of headliners united under one band — and they had their act down to a breathtakingly precise pitch at the Greek Theater.
Koz, who has a lullaby project, “Golden Slumbers,” set for September release on Warner Bros., is notorious for his extensive Mick Jagger-like repertoire of poses, gestures, twists and dance moves — no easy feat for a saxophonist. But this production — and it was a production, carefully assembled, with no detail overlooked — generously and neatly integrated Koz’s showboating manner with those of his showboating colleagues. So the performers charged each other like bulls and matadors and executed choreographed dance steps with Motown-like precision; one could feel an appealing sense of camaraderie in the service of the Wave.
It was a good idea to use only one backup band, which gave the stage an uncluttered, attractive, streamlined look with plenty of room for the players to boogie around. The pacing was free of dead spots, the lighting was excellent, even the sound was relatively clear and undistorted. This was a class act from start to finish.
Close your eyes, though, and you hear a parade of adept technicians playing mostly formulaic tunes and changes. When you hear Koz, you still immediately think of David Sanborn.
Norman Brown, with a new disc, “Just Chillin'” on Warners, remains a George Benson clone, equipped with the latter’s beautiful guitar tone, but not his ability to get thoroughly into the pocket.
Brian Culbertson’s keyboard evokes Joe Sample in a smooth jazz mood, though his trombone playing does have a distinctive grandstanding panache.
Singer James Ingram produced the most ingratiating moments –and here, he had unbilled help, for Patti Austin made a surprise appearance in “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” that led to a wonderfully comic, in-character exchange, as if they were sending up the big ballad genre. Ingram and Austin resumed their dialogue in “Baby Come to Me,” and later on, Austin planted herself selflessly among the backup singers for the rest of the show.