One’s a platinum-plated instrumentalist whose smooth stylings have seen him top the charts as a bandleader and make beautiful music with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Stevie Nicks. The other’s a pioneer of slapping/thumping funk bass technique who wowed the crowd at Woodstock, climbed the Billboard R&B charts and took his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Together on the road this summer, Dave Koz and Larry Graham are living proof that jazz is a big tent, and when the co-headliners roll into Red Bank this Wednesday, they’ll be sounding the keynote to the 2017 Summer Jazz Fest schedule at the Count Basie Theatre.
A connected series of events that resumes with three additional concerts in the early days of August, the Summer Jazz slate pays props to the borough that birthed the venerable venue’s namesake legend William “Count” Basie — and has regularly sweetened its summer nights with such offerings as the ongoing Jazz in the Park Thursday series, and the Summer Jazz Café schedule that walks it home this weekend at Two River Theater.
You can’t get much better an example of two veteran jazz cats who come at their craft from different angles than Koz — a California-born serial Grammy nominee whose facility as a radio and television host has earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — and Graham, a founding member of the multiracial, multigender, boundary-busting Sly and the Family Stone, whose own breakaway project Graham Central Station earned him a gold record with “Your Love.” That led to the chart-topping solo ballad “One in a Million You,” a comeback collaboration with Prince, and recent recognition as the uncle of Canadian megastar Drake.
Graham and Koz take grandly broad views of their place in the contemporary music landscape, proving themselves many times over as sought-after session aces, while continuing to lead acclaimed combos on the live stage.
Take it here for tickets ($35 – $89.50) — and here for details on upcoming Summer Jazz Fest concerts; a slate that includes Snarky Puppy (August 4), Herbie Hancock (August 6), and a twin bill of the Chick Corea Elektric Band and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (August 8).