Dave Koz is the one artist in the Smooth Jazz genre who always pushes the outer edges. He’s always trying something different and his new CD “At The Movies” is an excellent example of his diversity. A collection of the top movie songs with vocals dubbed in, from the original on “Over The Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By”. Other guest vocalist’s include Barry Manilow, Anita Baker, Johnny Mathis, Vanessa Williams, India.Arie, and Donna Summers. Chris Botti plays trumpet on two songs, and Peter White and Norman Brown play acoustic and electric guitars, respectively, on the two bonus tracks.
Dave Koz was born in the LA area and began playing piano at a young age, before trying drums, which he says he wasn’t good at. He picked up the saxophone at 13, in an attempt to gain entry into his brother’s band. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in Mass Communications in 1986, he decided he wanted to pursue music. Within weeks Bobby Caldwell hired him and he played for several known artists as well as doing session work throughout the eighties. A gig on Arsenio Hall’s late night talk show got him noticed by a larger audience greatly increasing his popularity. Versitile, Dave usually plays soprano and alto saxophone, but also plays tenor and baritone saxophone when the occasion calls for a deeper sound.
In 1990, Dave Koz made a decision to pursue a solo career. A very successful solo career has followed, having been nominated for four Grammy’s and an NAACP Image Award over the last seventeen years. A platinum selling solo artist, Dave has seven CD’s under his belt, with two being Gold Albums, spawning ten Top 5 hits. He was even named by People Magazine as one of their “50 Hottest Bachelors for 2004”.
In 1994, Dave began his radio career hosting a syndicated radio program, "The Dave Koz Radio Show". This morphed into The Dave Koz Morning Show, which he co-hosted with Pat Prescott on 94.7 The Wave, a Smooth Jazz station in Los Angeles for six years. At the beginning of this year, he left and has been replaced by Brian McKnight.
In 2002, Dave started a record label, Rendezvous Entertainment, with Frank Cody and Hyman Katz. He leaves the daily running of the company to Frank and Hyman, with the help of a small dedicated staff. They represent Wayman Tisdale, Jonathan Butler, Kirk Whalum, Patty Austin, Brian Simpson, Michael Lington, Marc Antoine, Kyle Eastwood, Philippe Saisse, Praful, among others, as well as Dave himself.
In 2006, Dave Koz was selected to host a syndicated afternoon show for Broadcast Architecture's new Smooth Jazz Network. The show, based in Los Angeles, is broadcast to affiliates across the country bringing Dave into homes throughout the United States.
SJN: You are a huge fan of the movies, which is evident in your new CD, “At the Movies”. The music is a very important part of the production of all movies. You have re-enacted this with the use of a 40 piece orchestra with an eight piece rhythm section. Was it pleasing to have the full sound behind you?
Dave: Well it almost had to be. One way or another, it had to be because the sound is synonymous with the nostalgic, the grander, that golden era of the movies. When you think about it, the symphony orchestra, the strings, and the swell, and the romance, it’s not only part of the sound, it kind of is the sound. Someone pointed out to me now that film music now is like our modern classic music. So, having a full orchestra for me was a requirement to do this music justice. We didn’t have to do it, but in order to create an album that has that timeless quality it was important to have the orchestra and the special guests. You know, it’s possible for just anyone to sing these songs. They are such iconic pieces of music; it feels like you have to have iconic singers, as well!
SJN: We heard that you had a great time making the CD. Can you tell us a little about it?
Dave: It was the probably the single best musical experience I have ever had. I worked with a guy by the name of Phil Ramone, who is responsible for so much of the music in the twentieth and twenty-first century now. Take him out of the mix, and you would have huge gaping holes. Everyone from Barbra Streisand to Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennett to Paul Simon to Elton John to Billy Joel the guy’s just been everywhere so recruiting him was a huge asset and working with Phil is better than traveling first class on the Concord. The greatest musicians, the best arrangers, the best studios, he’s the perfect casting director to allow me the freedom which is going into the studio everyday and not worrying about anything except for just playing my heart out and putting all the emotion and positive energy that I could into creating these melodies for a new audience. Also, the great honor of playing these songs, they’ve been around for so long for one good reason, they’re really good. They’re really great pieces of music, they’re more than just notes on a page, they’re really characters from the films they come from. The minute you play them all the memories come flooding back, not just from the movie, the visuals, but what was going on in your life at that time, who you saw the movie with the first time you saw it and all those personal emotional kind of connections. As a broad stroke it was a very rich project for me to immerse myself in, the year that we recorded it was one of the greatest years of my life.
SJN: We understand that there is to be a DVD on “At The Movies”.Do you have a release date for the DVD yet?
Dave: It will be sometime, I think, in the first couple of months in 2008. We did a show inside Capitol Records, with Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Vanessa Williams and Anita Baker in it. We had the orchestra there and it was an exceptional, exceptional day. We tell the story a little bit more with the visuals about the wall of music and the movies. It’s a lot of fun.
SJN: With the success of “At The Movies”, will there be a sequel?
Dave: Too early to tell, I would love to do one but like all projects that I’ve done we sort of commit to a couple of years of promotion, before I decide what will be the follow-up. I can tell you that I will have a brand new holiday CD coming out in Sept 07, it’s called “Memories of a Winters’ Night”. It’s twelve tracks of beautiful holiday music, just in time for our 10 th anniversary of our Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour.
SJN: Your annual cruise is coming up and I hear you have quite a line up, Gerald Albright, Marc Antoine, David Benoit, Norman Brown, Peabo Bryson, Jonathan Butler, Eric Darius, Richard Elliot, Jeff Lorber, Keiko Matsui, Chris Standring, Jody Watley, and Spyro Gyra. Can you tell us a few of the exciting things you have planned for this cruise?
Dave: The cruise is always an opportunity, since we’re all together,
the whole ship is there for the same reason, it’s always an opportunity for the artist’s to show whole other sides of themselves other than the music side. Of course that will be well represented, but it’s the surprises, it’s the unexpected, it’s having a martini made by David Benoit for you, it is a special Japanese tea ceremony with Keiko Matsui, it’s a one on one where you really get to know the person who is Peabo Bryson, it is going on an outing with Richard Elliot, it is having all the sax players on board “talk shop” and answer questions and play spontaneously. There are shows every night, but it’s the stuff that’s programmed in between, and also the spontaneous things that happen, spontaneous jam sessions at the pool area on any given day , or who is going to win the pajama party contest, those are the things that make the cruise experience truly special, because you really bonded from the minute you set foot on the ship until the minute you step off, you’ve bonded with everybody in a way unlike other vacation experiences the artists and the guests on board are all part of it together. And it’s really quite lovely.
SJN: We hear that you are having a special guest who bid $30,000 at auction for her cabin?
Dave: That special guest is Heather Mills, and I hope that she comes on. She spent a lot of money for Starlight Children’s Foundation that night and she really wanted to go. It turns out that she actually plays saxophone and she wants a lesson from me and that’s a very expensive lesson but I’m happy to give it to her if she really wants it. There were two cabins that went that night and we raised almost sixty thousand dollars for Starlight Foundation from the cruise alone. It was a great feeling.
SJN: Most people would take some time off after that, but we hear that you have a Christmas Tour again this year. Could you please tell us a bit about it?
Dave: The tour kicks off Thanksgiving weekend and we have a full line up including Mr. Jonathan Butler, Wayman Tisdale, and I so proud of the fact that Wayman going to be on this Christmas tour, he’s truly an inspiration. What I like about him coming on this tour is that what better way to return to the stage. He’s going to be surrounded by people who love him, it’s Christmastime and it’s the time of year that people talk about and look for miracles to happen, and him being on stage with his bass guitar and being Wayman, that’s as good of a Christmas miracle as I could imagine. Finally, one of the American Idols will be joining us. Her name is Kimberley Locke and she came in third in season two. She has blossomed into quite a successful recording artist with three albums under her belt and a bunch of hits. We are very pleased to have her and both she and Kelly Sweet, who was our vocalist over the summer, are represented with new tracks on the Christmas album. Kelly does a beautiful new version of White Christmas. The crystal clear voice of an angel!
SJN: Last year, you joined Broadcast Architecture’s Smooth Jazz Network. Do you see syndication being the future of radio?
Dave: I think that syndication is the right idea at the right time. For our format of radio, it seems to have hit the right nerve, at the right time. To have Ramsey Lewis host a very successful show in Chicago, because of the network, it’s able to be heard in 20 markets. The same with my show in the afternoon is now heard on 20 markets, so you have upwards of a couple of million who are hearing this show. Me, I just love being an advocate for the music and the artists. If I can reach people and inspire them to get interested in this music that we call Smooth Jazz, then we are doing our jobs. I’m excited about its growth! I love doing radio! I’ve been doing radio for a lot of years now. This is unlike any other job that I have ever had in radio because it is just me in the afternoons, but it is working. People seem to like it! I hope that it continues to grow!
SJN: Rendezvous Entertainment is doing well with its niche market. We were wondering with another 20% drop in record sales this year, what do you feel is the future of the record industry?
Dave: Man, if I knew the answer to that I would be well-suited for the future! Finding out that information…oh my God, that’s a tough one, that is a tough one! The record business is changing so dramatically at a fevered pitch! It is really an interesting time. Having said that, I really believe that music is very healthy, right now. People love music! People love having the music in their lives. It is just the distribution mechanism that we have to work on.
SJN: With downloading on the Internet, you only download one song, how do you think that this will affect the record format of a dozen or so songs on one album?
Dave: I think instead of waiting for long periods of time to write and record an album and release that every year or two years, maybe the relationship an artist has with his or her fans will be a more constant one where once a month there is a new song or once every three months you get four songs, so it is more of a steady stream of new music coming out. The one thing that I do hope is that there always is a long form format because sometimes as an artist, you need more time to tell a story that you want to tell. Like in ‘At the movies’ we couldn’t do a song per month because it was a concept that needed to be told as a story from start to finish and that’s what you do on a CD. So, I think that format will be around; at least I hope it will be. But, if it’s just about releasing music and keeping in constant communication with your fans, I think that the digital age give us more of an opportunity to be much more creative that way and constantly be releasing music.
SJN: So do you think that the record company will disappear and artists will deal directly with their fans through the internet?
Dave: I think that we are already seeing that now where artists who have flourishing careers, but they don’t have record companies. They are their own record company. They are releasing their music on their own, digitally. They have very active Myspace pages, or Facebook pages. They are interacting directly with their fans. So, you don’t have to throw something against the wall and expect for it to be a massive hit. I think the future is really about an artist finding their core audience and nurturing that audience, growing it bit by bit. The idea of hitting one out of the park is going to become rarer and rarer. And that will be for the big major companies to do behind the big huge acts that they spend millions of dollars doing that to. But, there is a very healthy music business that is out there that I think could grow and grow that’s more of a independent, entrepreneurial nature. It’s quite exciting actually!
SJN: Talking about Smooth Jazz specifically, there is a school of thought that Smooth Jazz is going to disappear. Some suggest adding more vocals. What are your thoughts on this subject?
Dave: I think vocals are nice because we live in a vocal world, but they have to make sense. I think anything that is done for obvious commercial consideration smacks of exactly that. So, the use of vocals on Smooth Jazz records, I think is fine, people do it all the time, but it has to make creative sense.
I do not think Smooth Jazz is going to disappear. I think people who come to see our shows are enough indication to me that there is still hunger and thirst and appreciation for the music and the artists who make it. I think the responsibility is on us, the makers of the music, to find new ways of getting to those people and exposing our music to them, because once people are exposed to it, it’s hard not to like it…It’s good!
SJN: You are Global Ambassador for the Starlight Starbright Foundation which focuses on terminally ill children. What will you be doing with this worthwhile organization in the future?
Dave: My work with them is on going. Whenever I do interviews and as I go about my business, I try to raise awareness about what they do. They have put so many families at ease, and kids at ease that are going through very, very difficult, trying situations. I have been a fan of theirs for many years. I have worked with them for 15 years now, so it’s an ongoing thing, it’s not project specific, it’s always something going on with them.
SJN: We realize that you are very busy with work, but we are wondering what are you up to in your personal life?
Dave: I going on a trip to London in about a week and I am very excited about that, for some real time off. I have my family to get back into seeing a little bit. I have some game nights at my house that I want to get back to doing. I have friends over and we play Taboo. Sometimes we have very feverish games of Scrabble. Sounds old-fashion, but throw in some Margarita’s and you have a very fun night! I have to get caught up on movies. It’s nice to check in on things that are just the normal part of my life.
SJN: You always have your hands in all kinds of projects. What new projects or ventures are you planning for the future?
Dave: The main things that are happening are the Christmas CD and the ‘At The Movies’ DVD. There are some exciting projects on the horizon at Rendezvous, including a Jonathan Butler live DVD from South Africa that comes out in October. A new Brian Simpson CD, a new Kirk Whalum CD, and coming in January or February will be a new Wayman Tisdale CD. Lots of projects, other than my own that are on the table.
SJN: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
Dave: It’s a pleasure, nice talking with you!