Dave Koz Faces Forward with the Release of Hello Tomorrow
By Brian Soergel
Over the past 20 years, since he debuted in 1990 with a self-titled CD and a string of top smooth jazz radio hits, Dave Koz has been one of the hardest working and most focused musicians around. Annual summer tours. Annual holiday tours. Hosting smooth jazz-themed cruises. Actively working with the Recording Industry Association of America, which produces the Grammys, to boost smooth jazz’s recognition. Hosting a radio show and doing charity work and getting face time on TV as a bandleader.
But there is one thing the saxophonist has not focused on in awhile, and that is releasing new, original smooth jazz music. Since his debut, he’s released four more smooth jazz CDs––Lucky Man, Off the Beaten Path, The Dance and Saxophonic, the last in 2003. To be sure, he’s released other projects––two holiday CDs, one of lullabies and one of movie music. And 2008’s Greatest Hits had four new songs, including the hits “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Bada Bing.”
So a new Dave Koz smooth jazz CD is cause for joy among his many fans, not to mention smooth jazz radio program directors. Hello Tomorrow, which is scheduled for release next month, will certainly garner a lot of attention in the smooth jazz universe for some time. It marks a new start for Koz, because the CD is his first for Concord Records after a lifelong musical association with Capitol Records. Hello Tomorrow was recorded at Henson Recording Studios (previously A&M Studios) in Hollywood, with Grammy-winning co-producers Marcus Miller and John Burk.
“People who have liked what I’ve done in the past will like this record because it’s a jumping-off point, which the title signifies,” said Koz.
Two years ago the hit “Life in the Fast Lane” reflected the bustle of his entire musical life. Hello Tomorrow, conversely, looks to the future, albeit an uncertain one. “It’s really the first chapter of the rest of my musical life. It’s my 20-year anniversary, and in many ways I feel like I’m just beginning. This is a very different time for the music business, and I’ve noticed in my own life––and with friends and family––that all of the changes in music are happening with lightning speed. All the pillars we’ve survived on just aren’t there anymore.”
Koz is talking about smooth jazz in particular, with the tremendous loss of traditional radio stations playing the music in the United States' biggest markets, as well as the steep decline in CD sales, both of which mean fewer opportunities for established artists, not to mention newer ones.
Koz is also ruminating on the state of the country, which has changed––most would say––for the worse since Saxophonic was released. So his thoughts address both musicians and many of his fans. “We have one foot firmly planted on the way it was, which is where we are not going back to, and the other foot is trying to find solid ground that we know is not there,” Koz said. “There are a lot of people who have responded differently to this discomfort––some have even completely checked out.”
Koz wanted to chart a newer, more hopeful ground with his new project, even if in a small way,. “I recognized this discomfort in my own life,” he admits, “and wanted to do something about it, comment on it. That’s the intention of Hello Tomorrow, to provide inspiration and some comfort. Some sort of awakening so people can embrace this new world and its changes. I want them to go in with their eyes open, alert, excited about what’s ahead, because those other options don’t seem to be cutting it.”
Hello Tomorrow features 13 songs reflecting Koz’s current mindset. They include “Put the Top Down,” “Get Away,” “There’s a Better Way,” “Start All Over Again,” “Think Big,” “Remember Where You Came From” and “What You Leave Behind.” Koz also selected one cover, the Bacharach and David classic “This Guy’s in Love with You,” which Herb Alpert rode all the way to No. 1 on the pop charts. “That song’s always been special for me,” said Koz, who counts Alpert as a friend and mentor. It was producers Miller and Burk who suggested Koz not only cover the song but sing on it, a first for him. They reminded him that Alpert wasn’t a singer and was of course celebrated for his trumpet playing. “They said that you don’t have to be a great singer, and Herb had a big hit with his song,” Koz said. “I’m proud of the song the way I did it, and there’s a surprise at the end of the song when Herb actually comes in after the song’s outro and plays those famous two notes.”
Koz is also helping spread optimism with his annual summer tour, this time with guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Butler. Instead of the usual Dave Koz & Friends moniker, this year’s version is called Together Again. “As Jonathan likes to say, we’re brothers from another mother,” Koz said. “That’s why I call this tour Together Again, and of course that’s a song of mine from a while back. We have this musical camaraderie that you can’t find too often. I kind of know where he’s going to go musically, but at the same time I have no idea what he’s going to do. It’s exciting to still be surprised by his improvisation.”
Together Again also has vocalist Phil Perry on some dates, as well as percussionist Sheila E. on the majority of them. (Both E. and Butler are featured on the Hello Tomorrow song “Get Away.”) “Sheila is, in a word, unbelievable,” Koz said. “I’ve known her for a long time; we’ve been friends for many years. But we’ve never actually shared the stage together. She’s a total pro and brings so much energy … I mean, she played drums for Prince. She gets behind the drum kit and, I don’t want to admit it, but Jonathan and I are like window dressing. She does her solo and we might as well go home.”
Koz said he admires Sheila E.’s rapport with a segment of his summer audiences. “I love to watch the women in the audience watch her because she represents so much of this personal empowerment and doing what you love to do. Not being pigeonholed into doing what a woman is expected to do, on stage and off. I’ve learned a lot from her, and am very proud to say she’s my other sister.”**
** **The complete Dave Kozstory can be found in the August issue of Smooth Jazz News. Pick up your free copy at our radio station affiliates (see radio station page for listings), various concerts, festivals and select Southern California outlets. Or you can subscribe and receive 11 issues of Smooth Jazz News per year, mailed monthly (except January), for $35. Click here to subscribe online today.
For more information on Koz, including his complete tour schedule, visit www.davekoz.com.
20th Annual Rodney Strong Vineyards Summer Concert Series
Rodney Strong Vineyards
11455 Old Redwood Hwy.
Long Beach Jazz Festival
Rainbow Lagoon Park
1 Pine Ave.
Long Beach, California
Aug. 28 and 29
Thornton Winery's 22nd Annual Champagne Jazz Series
32575 Rancho California Road
Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2011
Dave Koz & Friends at Sea
Aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas
Ports of call at Seattle, Washington; Juneau, Skagway and Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska; Victoria, British Columbia
(800) 225-5759, (707) 546-1212