Out saxophonist Dave Koz gets by with a little help from his friends
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
In a career spanning a quarter century, out saxophonist Dave Koz has enjoyed many opportunities to combine forces with celebrated recording artists — a who’s who cross section of musical genres, including legends Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart, to name a few. And despite his own successes, each one left an impression on him.
“I learned a lot from these people,” Koz says. “It is the art of collaboration. If you go in with open eyes, open arms and open hearts, you can learn so much about yourself and about other people.”
To celebrate his history of artistic partnerships, Koz recently issued a new album entitled Collaborations: 25th Anniversary Collection. The 15-track disc, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz chart, includes three newly-recorded tracks alongside some curated selections, each connected by a common thread of creative alliance.
“It’s been the one thing that’s been the essence of my life, on and off the stage,” say Koz, 52, of synergistic teaming. “We decided to look at some of those collaborations that never got to see the light of day — some from my albums and some from other artists’ albums — and to put together the best of the best.”
As Koz reviewed his portfolio, the roster of renowned musicians he has worked with gave him pause. He simultaneously felt satisfaction and humility.
“It’s one thing to know them, it’s another thing to make music with them,” Koz says. “It was a bit of a shot in the arm for me after 25 years to take a moment to reflect on some of those musical relationships. [For example,] I made music with Stevie Wonder, who is one of the greatest artists in almost any genre. He sang a song on my album. It’s kind of mind-blowing.”
Koz looks forward to sharing that experience with North Texas audiences, as he returns to Dallas with his summer tour. Continuing the theme of creative partnerships, he brings with him with jazz trumpeter Rick Braun and vocalist Kenny Lattimore. In a matinee performance at Fair Park Music Hall Sunday, the trio will perform, among other selections, the first radio single from the new album, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”
“A nice thing about our show in Dallas is that it’s during the day,” Koz says. “It’s on a Sunday. You come in the early afternoon, they offer lunch and then you can enjoy an afternoon show. It’s kind of a perfect timing. We did it last year as an experiment and it really worked.”
The CD release and tour are only two components of what has become an exceptional year for the in-demand musician. Earlier, Barry Manilow — who appears on Collaborations — asked Koz to opening for him on his One Last Time! tour. Koz, who admits to being a Fanilow, did not pass on the opportunity. The job even offered a few perks.
“[Barry] was kind enough to ask me to join him on his private plane, which, by the way, ruined me forever,” Koz jokes. “The day after the tour was over, I was back on Southwest. I took a picture, and I said, ‘Barry who are all these people on my private plane?’”
While most of the tour stops with Manilow went smoothly, Koz recalls an awkward wardrobe malfunction of the Lenny Kravitz variety.
“One day I split my pants about three-quarters of the way,” Koz says. “And I’m talking ripped my pants in the crotch. I still had 10 minutes more onstage.
Thankfully I was wearing underwear. I just thought, ‘What am I gonna do?’ The cameras are on me, and I’m on the big screen. I just kept my legs together for 10 minutes straight and I hobbled off stage. Talk about embarrassing.”
Koz, who released his first album in 1990, has been nominated nine times for a Grammy but has yet to take home the coveted trophy. Because his latest album does not fit neatly into its categories, he suspected the recording academy will not likely recognize the effort with a nomination. But he’s at peace with it.
“I‘ve sort of put that one behind me,” Koz says of winning the award. “I’ve been many times to the altar, but never a bride. I’ve got no problem with that.”
Koz acknowledges that gay music lovers are often more attracted to dance songs and showtunes than jazz music, but he is always grateful when he encounters his gay fans.
“I see it on our cruises,” Koz says. “One of the things I love about my music is that is appeals to a wide audience. We try to create a warm and welcoming environment. Typically my music, jazz music, doesn’t appeal to the gay audience. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t see that audience come to shows and come on our cruises. I’m very happy about that when I see them.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 28, 2015.