"The Koz" fell in love with the sax at a very young age and the world began to fall in love with him. Truly one of the great and gifted legends of smooth jazz, Dave Koz has had hits since his first self-entitled album. Since then, Koz has released such gems as "Lucky Man" "The Dance" and "Saxophonic." Those efforts earned him two Grammy nominations.
Koz has not been afraid to experiment and released a more traditional "At the Movies" which spent an amazing 12 weeks at the top of the jazz charts and grabbed another Grammy nomination. He has hosted the national "The Dave Koz Radio Show" for 15 years. One of his best releases has been "Hello Tomorrow" which by far is his most personal album. As many reviewers proclaimed, "Dave Koz Sings!" with his amazing music video "This Guy Is In Love With You."
Each year Koz has a "Jazz Cruise" to different locations that always sells out. Here's Dave!
1. When and how did your love affair with the sax begin?
I had played other instruments (badly!), but it wasn't until I was 13 years old and entering the 7th grade that I first encountered the saxophone. It was an alto, and I can distinctly remember it feeling immediately 'right'…almost like finding another part of my body or something. Thankfully, I got good at it pretty quick. I think one of the main reasons was that through the sax, I was able to find an outlet for so many thoughts and emotions I was dealing with—I was such an awkward, uncomfortable kid…like most 13 year-olds! Not being able to articulate those feelings into words, the sax became my vehicle to work through a whole lot of stuff. And in that way, the instrument became very early on, my best friend and my most-trusted ally. It's been that way for 35 years now. I had no idea it would be the way I make my living however…that part is the ''gravy"! But I can tell you, not to be over-dramatic…but the saxophone (and music in general) saved my life. Were it not for music, I don't know what would've happened to me in those early years.
2. Music is a tough business. What was your first big break that brought you to national attention?
It was really a series of small breaks—in fact, that's what my career has been all along. Instead of these monster earthquakes, it's been a steady stream of 'tremors', affording me the opportunity to build and hone as I go along. I still can't believe I've been at it for over 20 years now, professionally. It's a real blessing, as this business can be SO fickle! But my first 'tremor' was getting hired by singer Bobby Caldwell to play in his band. Everyone went to Bobby's shows and he was very kind to give me lots of solo time, so I was seen by a lot of LA music royalty. Next, came a call from jazz fusion pioneer Jeff Lorber to audition for his band. I got the gig and soon after, he encouraged me to start thinking about making my OWN album…up until then the thought never came into my head! He helped me get a manager who then got me signed to Capitol Records in 1987. My first album came out in 1990, and I've been riding the wave ever since. And not looking back!
3. What kind of reaction did you find in coming out in the world of jazz?
I never planned to come out. I'd worried for the longest time about even a glimmer of the truth getting out there…I was a product of my time. But it did indeed happen in 2004…and I was probably the one most shocked by it! It just sort of happened organically right after I turned 40. I guess I decided that I wanted to finally play with a full deck—not live my life compartmentalized any longer. And whatever damage my career would take as a result was worth the peace of mind of finally becoming a whole person. I planned for the worst, never expecting what actually happened. That year I saw the biggest increase in sales of my cd's, tickets to my concerts…new and wonderful experiences (like meeting you and playing for Senator Kennedy); Ironically, my worst fears never materialized…the only thing that DID happen was that everything got better!! It was the right timing. And my colleagues and members of the jazz community couldn't have been more kind nor embracing. I didn't have one bad experience really…it was a 'blip' on the screen, and then I went back to doing what I do—playing the saxophone.
4. What is your most memorable moment on stage?
I'm blessed to say I've had a number of those 'pinch me' moments. Playing for soon-to-be President Bill Clinton on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at his inauguration would surely be one of them! Taking the stage at the historic Royal Albert Hall last month in London was pretty amazing too. As a proud LA-boy, anytime I can make music at the amazing Hollywood Bowl (as we've done for several summers now), is always highly memorable for me. But some of the most special moments have been off-stage or in the studio just hanging with folks like the late great Luther Vandross, doing radio with Stevie Wonder, talking shop with my sax hero David Sanborn, being in the studio with super-producer Quincy Jones or writing a song with Burt Bacharach…these are the moments that will stay with me forever.
5. Who are your heroes and mentors in music?
I truly admire the artists who are constantly evolving and pushing the envelope and taking their audiences with them on the ride. I love Elton John…he does that so well. Sting too. I can't begin to express my love and appreciation for people like Stevie Wonder. And I recently got to work with a true hero and mentor, Mr. Herb Alpert. Now there's a guy who is one of the most creative people on the planet. Whether playing music, sculpting, painting or authoring books, he's always putting the essence of goodness out into the world. He's also one of the greatest philanthropists and humanitarians in the country, having given hundreds of millions of dollars away (primarily in the music education sector)…and he's done this very below the radar screen--which makes me love him even more! Herb's a guy figured it out…or at least that's what it looks like to me. So I try to hang around him whenever possible, hoping that a little of that magic secret-to-life slips out!