I got to see the Rebecca Jade Xmas show! Oh, yeah, and Dave Koz, Jonathan Butler, and others were there, too.
OK, I jest here. Koz has been the frontman for a holiday tour for a quarter of a century. The saxophonist’s music is labeled “soft jazz”, and that is true. But read this review of Dave Koz And Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas album in 2017: “Yes… you’ve heard all these classic yuletide songs before. But have you heard them the way [he] arranges them?”
In 2020, the C-year, he and his friends were unable to go on the road. So they did a one-off virtual concert – teased here, and featuring Rebecca Jade. My wife and I saw it; REALLY good. So in 2021, he and his cohorts were back on the road. But there is only stop in New York State, and it ain’t in Albany.
Sunday, December 5, my wife took me to the train station. I could have taken the CDTA bus, which is convenient, but that was a nicer way to depart. I decided to go all-digital with my new phone. This is the first time I didn’t print my ticket.
Then I went to the vending machine to get a ticket to the Oyster Bay on the Long Island Railroad. Literally, the only thing I know about the place I learned from passing references in two Billy Joel songs.
I had booked a place via Hotels.com, a little wary of the geography. But Andrea, my sister’s friend who picked me up at the train stop, noted that it was pretty close to both my hotel and the concert venue. She dropped me off at the East Norwich Inn to check in. More about this anon.
We followed her GPS four miles to get us to a Greek gyro place 800 feet away, where we got some grub. Then we headed to the concert venue, the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post in Brookville. I had moved my ticket from Ticketmaster to some Apple Pay app, as though I knew what I was doing! Everyone had to be vaccinated; the picture of my card was on my phone. We had some overpriced cups of wine with an interesting couple we did not know, but who welcomed us to sit with them.
The show began with Koz, South African guitarist/singer Jonathan Butler, trumpeter Rick Braun, and saxophonist Richard Elliot trading licks. Then vocalist Rebecca Jade came out and sang with Butler on one of my favorite songs of the season, What Christmas Means To Me by Stevie Wonder.
A bit later, she and Butler dueted on Mary Did You Know. They performed this last year on the virtual show. It’s a great song and exquisite pairing. I heard it on Butler’s Christmas Together album with another vocalist, but the live renditions were just better. Shortly thereafter, possibly the least suggestive version ever of Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
There were other highlights as well. Each year, Dave does a Hannukah section, since he was born Jewish. A giant dreidel descended from the rafters. Kids from the college, I assume, were wearing Santa hats and bringing Koz the right sax, sometimes mid-song.
Dave reminds me a little of another underrated musician, Doc Severinsen, who could play the clown with Johnny Carson, but who was/is a great jazz trumpeter.
Life on the road
Afterward, Andrea and I got to see Rebecca briefly. The tour started around Thanksgiving and ends December 23. Just for the Long Island show, the band came from Newport News, VA, seven hours away, where they performed the night before. The following evening, they would be taking the tour bus, which sleeps 12, to Detroit, 10 hours away.
Then a day off before trekking through Ohio, Indiana, and Louisville, KY. Good thing they have a day between there and El Paso, TX which is 21 hours away. Life on the road may be rewarding, but it’s tough.
Andrea drove me back to the hotel. I finally got a good look at the photos on the walls. They were often of horse race winners, with the jockey usually the famed Willie Shoemaker. And Burt Bacharach was prominent; Angie Dickinson, who I had forgotten had been married to Burt for a time, I recognized instantly. There’s a headshot of Edward Winter, who played the annoying Col. Flagg on MASH.
For the East Norwich Inn used to be called Burt Bacharach’s East Norwich Inn. The old sign was embedded into a wall. And the exterior still looks like this. The place is a bit worn; there was a squeak in my room floor, but it was in key. The venue was clean, convenient, and quite inexpensive. Burt also owned at least one restaurant in the area but I’m uncertain where that was.
The next morning, I called a taxi company; the guy at the front desk of the hotel had given me a phone number. But the man at that location gave me a second number, and the guy at the second number referred to the first. This left me with Uber. My driver was great, as he told me I could have taken a closer and more frequently running LIRR train, such as Hicksville. Next time I’m in the Oyster Bay area, I’ll remember that. My LI geography knowledge might fill a thimble.
Back to Manhattan to eat some lunch while sitting on the stairs between the entrances to the Moynihan train Hall. It was a beautiful day. Amtrak home to rain; fortunately, my wife picked me up. And my daughter might have even missed me a little.