Wednesday, August 17, 2016.
It was the right decision for Dave Koz to pick up the saxophone decades ago. First, it gave him the chance to join his brother’s band, an important step to him. It further resulted in Koz releasing his self-titled solo debut album more than 25 years ago. Since then, he has gone on to receive nine Grammy nominations, landed nine No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart, toured the world, and been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Not bad for a kid whose decision to play the sax “was really more of like a decision was made for me,” he remembers. He attempted to try other instruments, but nothing worked until the saxophone.
“From the minute that I had it in my hands, it felt like a very natural fit,” Koz says. “It felt like something that was almost an extension of my body, and I got good at it pretty quickly.”
For Koz, the instrument provided a powerful emotional vehicle for self-expression very close to the human voice, expressing sadness, happiness and everything in between.
“Whatever I was feeling inside, the saxophone became the perfect way to kind of get it out,” he says.
Koz is now completing a two-year tour with Barry Manilow, one of the artists featured in his recent release, “Collaborations: 25th Anniversary Collection,” along with Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross, and Rod Stewart.
His talent has provided additional opportunities to record and perform with musical greats, including David Sanborn, who will appear with Koz during their “Side by Side” performance at The Smith Center on August 19.
“I’m very excited to be switching gears right when I get back from this tour to put together a show with my all-time saxophone guru, idol, inspiration, mentor, and that’s David Sanborn,” Koz says. “This has been a 25-year dream of mine to stand side-by-side with him because he’s such a huge influence on my music and my life. And now it’s finally happening.”
Just like Koz, Sanborn’s decision to play the sax was also made for him, albeit for more dramatic reasons. Having contracted polio at the age of 3, he was introduced to the saxophone as part of his treatment therapy. By the age of 14, he was able to play with legends such as Albert King and Little Milton.
Sanborn’s extensive career also includes joining the Butterfield Blues Band and performing at Woodstock with Paul Butterfield. He further toured with Stevie Wonder, played with The Rolling Stones and toured with David Bowie. He has released 24 albums, won six Grammy Awards, and earned eight Gold albums and one Platinum album.
Both musicians have rich musical backgrounds and long careers, and Koz attributes part of his own success to keeping an open mind when it comes to new musicians.
“I will be in Budapest to be with Peet Project, young Hungarian jazz musicians,” he says. “I found out about them on YouTube. A friend mentioned them to me.”
He thought so highly of the performers that he invited them to join him on his annual Dave Koz Cruise last year.
While the sax proved the right choice for Koz, his other instrument, an open mind, keeps him interested in many kinds of musicians. That combination hits the perfect
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