Monday, June 1, 2015

Arts Insider Pick of the Week: Dave Koz- Do You See What I Hear?

It took exactly eight seconds. Just eight seconds of leaning back in my black leather office chair with eyes closed listening to smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz's 'I-do-whatever-I-want-whenever-I-want!' bluesy-bar-propelled Bada Bing, before a montage of HBO's The Sopranos fictional New Jersey-based mafia boss Tony Soprano sprang to mind.

The memorable instrumental is just one of four new tracks on Koz's first packaged Greatest Hits album, which also includes fan favorites You Make Me Smile, Together Again, Honey-Dipped, and Faces of the Heart (the long-running theme from soap opera's General Hospital).

Interviewed by phone from his Los Angeles office, the gregarious, six-time Grammy-nominated music artist/songwriter (not to mention radio show host) talked about a myriad of subjects: creating images through instrumental music, and why, Koz believes, "music can save a kid's life!"

"You bring up a very good point when you talk about how Bada Bing made you envision a Tony Soprano montage," Koz begins enthusiastically. "Because of the way people listen to music today -- which is by downloading it -- they don't have the (album) artwork that we had growing up. Part of the fun of that was putting on your headphones and looking at the album artwork while listening to the music," muses the 52 year-old artist. "It's kind of a dying art."

Koz recalls that as he and Bada Bing co-writer Rick Braun were in the process of composing the then-untitled piece, they realized that both "were huge Sopranos fans, and the song just felt like it was Tony's theme song-- hence, the name choice," he says. "In the best scenarios, that's what instrumental can do. It can set the scene," he continues. "You may have less paint in the paint box, if you will, becuase you don't have lyrics, but in many ways it provides the listeners a chance to really be creative on their own. To let these songs kind of develop their own meaning. It's not so much 'here's what these songs are about,'" he explains. "It's rather a vibe for you to kind of go with."

Fans of smooth jazz music, Koz says, "may be a niche audience, but the audience that's there is really across all boundaries. And that's one of the strengths of this music. I look out into my concert halls and see all the different kinds of people and different age groups, all kind of digging the music at the same time. (Pauses) It really is what feeds me," he stresses.

After Koz declares "music can save a kid's life!" he then explains the catalyst behind those words, which go back to his childhood growing up in L.A's San Fernando Valley. "I was grateful to have found the saxophone at an early age," he begins, "because music was the one place I knew I could turn to when I couldn't get out without words. and although I had it easier than a lot of kids because I grew up in a pretty functioning household. The saxophone was really my best friend," he says with a laugh, before recalling, "and not only was I a certifiable (school) 'band- geek' in high school- I'm also proud of that heritage!" he declares.

This is one of the reasons why Koz says music education is a  "major hot-pushing issue for me and why I work with the Grammy Foundation to ensure that the next generation of kids has that exact same opportunity. Even if you're not any doesn't even matter. It's just that you have the outlet, which is the most important thing. Music is a great socialization tool and the fact that there are kids growing up in this country without the opportunity to..." (sighs)

Among Koz's creative talents is that of busy radio show host- The Dave Koz Lounge airing Sundays on SiriusXM, and The Dave Koz Radio Show airing weekends (*the closest market to Louisville being the Cleveland/Akron Ohio area.)

"Although I admit 'smooth jazz' as a radio format is going through a change, my barometer has always been that the fans are the music...the people coming to the shows, writing emails, and sending messages on Facebook," he says. "I think smooth jazz is alive and well and that there is a place for it on everybody's iPod and CD selection shuffle for instrumental. And even though the world in general is going through a major change...a shift, the fact is, that people's love of music is at an all-time high and seems to be growing," Koz continues. "And that's what I focus on."

As to what it's like to be on the receiving end of what this writer imagines are 'totally blissed-out-looove-vibrations' from fans during Koz's curtain calls, he laughs, then deadpans 'As most musicians would say, "It's the kind of drug you don't mind being addicted to."

P.S 2015 marks Koz's 25th anniversary as a recording artist, and this summer brings the release of a retrospective CD. The summer season also brings his annual Dave Koz and Friends Summer tour after the dates with Barry Manilow.

-Gioia Patton, Arts & Entertainment Celebrity Profiler

What: Barry Manilow with special guest Dave Koz
When: Friday, June 5th 7:30PM
Where: KFC Yum! Center
Contact: Ticketmaster outlets or box office in person

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