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Dave Koz Fires Up Saxophone for 'The 25th of December'; Gloria Estefan, India.Arie, Johnny Mathis and More Join Him

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Society always celebrates the records that top the Billboard 200 album chart. Back of The Billboards is a Music Times weekly segment that looks at the opposite end: the new record that finished closest to the back of the Billboard 200 for the previous week. We hope to give a fighting chance to the bands you haven't heard of. This week we look at Christmas king Dave Koz and his new collection of smooth jazz standards.

Week of 12/012/2014
WHO: Dav Koz and Friends
WHAT: The 25th of December
SPOT: 184

Christmas time is here, as the Peanuts gang might say, and therefore so are a slew of performers who have virtually made careers from producing holiday music. Not that we blame them: One, it's a guaranteed market and two, we got the chance to see Jim Brickman last year and had to admit it was a pretty swell concert experience. That pianist has taken a break from releasing new material during 2014 and Mannheim Steamroller (responsible for 26 Christmas collections over 30 years) has only dropped a "greatest-hits" style package this year. Time for Dave Koz to take the wheel.

Koz is a relative noob in the holiday album industry, this being only his fourth Christmas collection. Part of the reason is that he shares the smooth jazz holiday niche with Kenny G, one of the bestselling musicians of all time. Nonetheless, Koz has impressed at least critics with his aptly titled collection A Smooth Jazz Christmas (2001). Although the form may draw sneers from jazz critics throughout the rest of the year, performers such as these seem to fit just fine in our American Decembers.

Does The 25th of December have anything to justify buying it over Koz's aforementioned album? Not really, outside of his original title duet with gospel vocalist BeBe Winans. The closing number, a cover of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" featuring many of this album's guest stars—Johnny Mathis and Eric Benét among others-is an interesting addition to Christmas canon but we'll always opt for the headliner's instrumentals first, which are better showcased during Smooth Jazz Christmas.

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