Therapeutic Jazz

Dave Koz delivers his elixir at Fraze

By Alan Sculley

Perhaps more than ever, jazz saxophonist Dave Koz sees his concerts – and the entertainment they provide – as playing a vital role in the larger lives of his audience.

Like most people in the music industry, he has watched the concert industry struggle recently and CD sales have pretty much gone down the drain as Internet downloading has become a predominant way for fans to get their music.

Koz, who is on a headlining run of dates, said he is especially thankful for the support fans are showing in these challenging times.

“It’s kind of a great responsibility on our part, on stage, to make sure that time and money is well spent and that people leave feeling that they really got something out of it,” Koz said.

Koz, of course, has felt the uncertainty within his own career, both in dwindling CD sales and in a shrinking radio market for the smooth jazz genre.

While doing concerts helps Koz return to the pure enjoyment of playing music and performing, he said writing music for his most recent CD, the 2010 release Hello Tomorrow, was also therapeutic and helped him embrace the uncertainties in his own life and career, which now spans two decades and more than a dozen albums in the smooth jazz genre, many of which have produced multiple jazz singles and have topped Billboard magazine’s jazz chart. He hopes his latest CD will have the same effect on people that hear it.

Hello Tomorrow centers around dealing with the uncertainties in the world today. The theme is present, Koz said, in songs like, “Start All Over Again,” one of a couple of vocal songs on the CD.

“And there are song titles and feelings of songs that are meant to access that part of people’s kind of consciousness,” he said. “It’s on a very subtle level, but there are song titles like ‘When Will I Know For Sure’ and ‘What You Leave Behind’ and ‘Remember Where You Came From’ and ‘It’s Always Been You.’ It’s kind of got a spiritual, a very subtle spiritual bent to it that if you listen to the music, and most of it is instrumental so it doesn’t tie you to a lyric, you can almost use it as a musical meditation – even though it’s got a lot of energy, by the way. It hopefully, in a perfect world, will allow people to find that inspiration inside.”

Hello Tomorrow was co-produced by Marcus Miller (who played bass with Miles Davis before embarking on a long and successful solo career) and John Burk (who produced Ray Charles’ final CD, Genius Loves Company). The producers pushed Koz out of his comfort zone in the studio by using musicians recording live in the studio to record basic tracks.

That approach was initially uncomfortable for him, Koz said. But he grew to enjoy it so much that he expects live ensemble recording to again be a key component of his next studio album, which he expect to record this year.

“What I loved on that project was the spontaneity,” Koz said. “I loved the live musicianship, and I got very hooked on that, the immediacy of being able to make music with musicians. Boom, press record, get great musicians, and boom, there it is. That’s your album…So I think if anything, it’s that concept I want to re-create.”

Hello Tomorrow is made up almost entirely of original Koz songs. But the one cover – a version Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love with You” – makes a notable statement from Koz, who is gay.

“I heard that as kind of like a gay marriage anthem,” Koz said. “Being a gay man and being so passionate about marriage equality – that is one of those kind of changes that is upon us that no matter what you believe. I know there are a lot of strong feelings on different sides of that issue, but the way I look at it is as just a pure love and equality issue. You love who you love. Everybody should be allowed to do that in this country. That was my kind of contribution. I wanted at least one song to be focused on that issue.

“When I heard that song, which has always been one of my favorites, I loved it,” he said. “I heard it with fresh ears like that and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ Then I called Herb Alpert, my friend and one of my major mentors in life, and I wanted to get his blessing because I was going to take on this song that he made famous and kind of turn it into something else. Not only did he give me the blessing, he said ‘You go, but would you like me to play on it?’ I said ‘Ah, yes.’ So he came and played on it. It was really just fantastic.”

Dave Koz will perform on Saturday, August 4 at Fraze Pavilion 695 Lincoln Park Boulevard in Kettering. Gates open at 6, show at 7:30. For ticket information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at

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