Dave Koz and Larry Graham join forces at Fraze

Photo: Dave Koz will be performing with Graham at Fraze

By Tim Walker

The life of a touring musician, with its endless routine of traveling, hotels, performances, restaurants, and interviews, might be an annoyance to many. But, at 54, Dave Koz loves it.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Koz tells Dayton City Paper. “The tour is going very well, and the audiences have been fantastic. We’re actually on our way to Connecticut tonight for another show—we have a couple more East Coast shows to do, and then we get a bit of a break before we see you guys in the Midwest.”

Since releasing his first solo album in 1990, jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, an 8-time Grammy nominee, has become well-acquainted with that touring lifestyle, seeing success and career achievements he’d never previously dared to imagine.

An ambassador from the world of jazz and a fixture on late night television, as well as a host of a number of syndicated radio programs, Koz is known worldwide. His 19 smooth jazz albums have sold in the millions of copies, and his song “Faces of the Heart” served as the theme song to the soap opera General Hospital from 1993 until 2004.

In 2009, Koz was awarded his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2014, he opened a restaurant and live-music venue in Beverly Hills, California. When not performing sold-out concerts as a solo artist, he has toured with other well-known musicians such as Richard Marx and Bobby Caldwell in what has become known as his Side by Side summer tour.

His current tour—he’s playing with bass playing funk legend Larry Graham—will bring the two artists to Fraze Pavilion, Aug. 12.

“We just started the tour a week ago tonight,” Koz says. “We did a little Texas run, a few cities, then we came to the East Coast, and we’re just making our way, making the rounds. But it’s been absolutely fantastic and so much fun doing these shows with Larry.”

While it’s cliché to say a man needs no introduction, Larry Graham may be one of those men. A superstar in the music industry, 70-year-old Graham was the bass player for the iconic psychedelic soul/funk band Sly and the Family Stone, playing on such legendary songs as “Everyday People,” “Family Affair,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” He is also the founder and front man for Graham Central Station.

Graham, who later toured with Prince for several years, is also credited with the creation of the “slap” technique of playing bass, a technique now used by funk and jazz bassists worldwide. His 1980 hit “One in a Million You” was a top 10 Billboard hit.

With the two superstars joining forces on stage, choosing which songs to play wouldn’t seem to be a problem. When asked if his current shows are drawing any songs from Graham’s extensive musical career, as well as his own, Koz laughs.

“Of course,” he says. “You can’t have the iconic Larry Graham on stage without going at his back catalog. And it’s just so much fun, to be able to play all those songs that I grew up playing in a wedding and bar mitzvah band. I’ve played all those songs before … but now it’s like, ‘Oh—this is the real deal, now. This is the guy that played them.’ And it just adds a whole other layer to it.”

Koz is known for pairing up with various other superstar musicians for his summer Side by Side Tour, and it adds a level of personal enjoyment to the star’s performances.

“We’ve been doing these side-by-side tours for a while now,” Koz says. “And last year I toured with one of my huge idols, David Sanborn—I probably had bruises on my backside for the entire summer, because I was pinching myself every night just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I mean, I worshipped that guy growing up, and then next thing I know I’m on stage with him every night.”

“And now,” Koz continues, “with Larry Graham, it’s the same thing. I mean, you’re talking to a white guy who grew up in the valley and loved funk music. And this is the guy who played all of those songs. It’s just amazing. And I’m always excited to be able to bring our summer shows to Kettering… there’s something about that venue just sets itself up beautifully for a perfect summer night. People are just in that mode, you know? Whether they’re on a blanket in the grass, or in the bleachers, or up front, it seems like everyone shows up there ready to have a good time. ”

Dave Koz and Larry Graham headline Festival of the Vine Saturday, Aug. 12, at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $42.50 in advance. For more information, please call 937.296.3300 or visit Fraze.com.

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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