When you’ve had a career that spans 20 years with almost a dozen successful albums, 6 Grammy nominations, two radio shows, and entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures, and you also have been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, most would feel, “if it’s not broken why try to fix it”, but not Dave Koz. Dave has chosen his soon to be released project, “Hello Tomorrow” as a means to change and a new beginning, with a new label, new attitude and outlook for life.
SJM: You have stated that you are starting a new era and phase of your life. Why is a change needed for you at this stage of the game after so many accomplishments and accolades?
Dave: Well I think it’s essential for everybody to continue to turn chapters in your book of life, so you’ll have the possibility to continue to grow. Sometimes changes for most people including myself, is a very difficult thing to handle. We’re wired to say no to it at every crossing. But sometimes we have to just force ourselves and design ourselves to surrender, and say this is what’s happening, this is what life is, this is what it’s about being alive right now. We have to follow through with the changes, embrace our discomfort zones and if we let go and do that for the most part, we won’t be let down; we can get on the other side of it and realize, oh my god, I didn’t know it at the time but this was really the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Even the really discomforting things, has people looking at their lives and going this really is different than I thought it was going to be. So no matter how old you are, if you’re living right now in 2010, it’s a very strange time; a great monumental shift in everything that we took for granted. So that’s what this album endeavors to be; a musical survival guide. It was for me and hopefully it will be for other people who are on their path trying to deal with this craziness and chaotic moments in life. If this inspires people to kind of go with the flow, embrace these changes then I think the record will be a success. Even if that happens for 5 people it will be a success.
SJM: If my research is correct, your debut cd, Dave Koz, which was on the Capitol Label, was released October 16, 1990. That’s almost 20 years (minus 4 days) to the release of “Hello Tomorrow” on yournew label, Concord. Was changing record labels essential in the renewing of Dave Koz and how did it come about that the release dates were ironically so close?
Dave: I think it helped to be honest with you. It was not something that we did on purpose. Actually I made that discovery about a month or so ago. I said I think this is like the same week that my first record came out 20 years ago. So we just kind of stepped into that one; didn’t plan that one. But I do think it’s fitting and appropriate because the album is called “Hello Tomorrow”. It’s a new album, a new record company, new producers, new musicians and new music. In many ways I feel like a brand new artist, even though ironically I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve been very blessed to have had a wonderful career playing the saxophone. But I do feel like this is a time where it’s very fresh, it’s new I’m rejuvenated, I’ve got something to say, I feel like in many ways this is how I felt when I first started. It feels good. I feel energized to get out there again and especially since this music business has changed so much. It requires artist not to get too big for their britches. We all have to remind ourselves that no matter how successful we’ve been in the past that anytime you release a record you can’t take it for granted. You have to roll up your sleeves and get the word out about the music. That’s what I’m prepared to do, ready to do and I’m excited about doing it.
SJM: You stated that we’re going through unfamiliar times. How are you relating that to this project and to your own life?
Dave: Everything that we’ve been resting our lives on, I’m 47, and I’ve counted on certain things as so in my lifetime, and I’m waking up in this time period and realizing that many of the things that I did sort of take for granted are just not there anymore, or they’re changing. You would have to be living under a rock to not be feeling that right now in 2010. So I was feeling very out of sorts like a lot of people. I didn’t know what was going on, was feeling uncomfortable and I started to write music. I started to recognize that this music had a theme, and it was helping me feel better. It inspired me and helped me to embrace all these changes and this discomfort. Then I started working with my producers on this record and the idea came together for “Hello Tomorrow”. And in the recording process we all banded together and figured out that this is what this album is going to be and we’re all going to experience that. I had so many moments in the studio, we’re all live musicians in the studio recording this music, and so many times I felt like what am I doing here? I’m not comfortable with this lol, and that’s exactly what needed to happen for me to work through it. People said how are you gonna get those emotions through those songs? Well I can tell you without question that it’s embedded in there through the performances by the people making the music.
SJM: You mentioned your dynamic producers, John Burke and Marcus Miller. How did you come to selecting them and how has their overall direction helped with this project?
Dave: Well John Burke is a principle at Concord Music Group, which is my new label. So I was working with him on a creative level and we were just sitting and talking about making an album. At that time he wasn’t attached to being one of the producers. We started talking about it and he had just finished working with Marcus Miller on producing George Benson and he brought up Marcus’ name. I had always wanted to work with Marcus; I mean Miles Davis, Luther Vandross and David Sanborn. Some of my favorite records of all times he wrote, produced and arranged; and I was like Yes! We all got together and we caught Marcus at the right time, and he said “yes I’d love to do it.” And when you think about his musicality and mine, we are definitely in two different camps, but that’s exactly what I needed. I needed somebody who would push and prod me to discover and unearth a new aspect of my creativity. And ironically too, I think, working at me, I was kind of able to get him embrace that he hadn’t yet looked at; so we kind of met in the middle. AMore importantly I think that our vision was shared by the 3 of us equally and very solidly. Marcus Miller by the way, because he is such a gifted person and one of the greatest bass players of all times, when he is in the studio leading the band, there is this foundation that is built that’s rock solid. He’s playing the bass, but his bass goes down so far into the earth that’s it’s unmovable; it’s unshakeable. And what I recognized was that because that foundation was so there and you know it’s not going to go anywhere, it allows the artist, in this case me, to build these much more elaborate structures on top. You have the freedom to do so. And so it was an amazing freedom being in the studio with these guys making this record, because you know whatever you tried, you’re going to be fine. You’d land on your feet.
SJM: You have some of smooth jazz’s crème de la crème performing with you on “Hello Tomorrow”. Honorable mention going out to Herb Albert, Jonathan Butler, Brian Culbertson, Marcus Miller, Shelia E, Keb Mo, Jeff Lorber, Dana Glover, Boney James, Christian Scott, Lee Ritenour and Ray Parker Jr. How did you go about choosing such a stellar line up?
Dave: Well the music was the driving force. The songs called the right collaborators. There are 2 songs that Keb Mo plays on and Keb is one of our great poets of blues music. They were just appropriate for him and we called him up and said would you like to do it, and he said “I’m in.” Once upon a period in time in the music business, you had to go to agents, record companies, and get releases and there was all this red tape. Now a day’s musicians just want to play and they want to play and help each other out. I do it all the time for my friends. And when it’s time for me to call on somebody it’s very gratifying that people want to come out and do it. We needed someone like Lee Ritenour to come and be the other voice on “Put The Top Down”, and so we said why don’t we call him and the next thing we know we’re in the studio with Lee. And then recording “This Guys In Love With You”, which is the one cover on this album, and again my producers said you’re going to sing this; that’s what you need to do. It’s a song that doesn’t require a group. It’s about a heartfelt telling of that story. And it’s so appropriate to have a story like “This Guy’s In Love With You”because there are so many hate crimes, so much fear and hate and all these things rearing their ugly heads. This is a simple song about love which needs to be out there to combat all that negative energy. So I sang it and I got a vocal that I was proud of and I sent it to Herb Alpert, who is one of my dearest mentors in life, who I’ve known for a long time and I love him so much for what he’s done for the world. And he said you got my blessing and I want to play on it too. So the next thing we were in the studio with Herb Alpert and he was playing his iconic notes the song that he made famous 40 years ago. Those kinds of things to me are the ones if I had a sheet of paper and could write all this stuff down before it happened, I’d say we’re never get this done. How are we ever going to get this done? But sometimes music just has a way of opening up doors and this album especially was very guided. I feel I wasn’t even there. My ego was moved aside and this music just kind of came from some other place. But when I look at those names I get blown away just like you.
SJM: You recorded with them live in the studio instead of everyone recording individually and then being put together. How difficult was this to do, did it create a chemistry and vibe that you feel took the album to a whole new level, and was that something that could only be accomplished feeding off each other?
Dave: For sure. Because the way music is recorded right now, it’s like great musicians will play on tracks, but people will send them their tracks and the put it in their home studio, they’ll play and then they send it back. It’s like mail order music. It’s very rare that musicians actually get in together in the studio at the same time to create music. That’s what Marcus brought to the party. He said we’re going to get these musicians, and I’m talking about some of the best musicians in the world, we’re gonna get them into the studio, and what was so funny Cheryl was that we would cut the songs, and 4 minutes would go by and the song would be over but the play wouldn’t stop. We were having such a good time with each other. It used to be way back when that they would do 2 or 3 sessions like this a day, and it would be every day. BI’m going to have to do a record one day of all the outtakes of these songs, because every song every tape was about 10 minutes long and on the album they are like 4 and 5 minutes long. And all this music is never heard, but the band didn’t want to stop. It was very, very cool to witness.
SJM: Dave one of my favorite songs, because I can relate to the lyrics and because your playing is so encouraging and genuine, and I guess it’s the heartbeat of this album and comes from the track sung by Dana Glover,
The words are so strong and powerful starting out with the negative things that our mind and heart try to discourage with, but then we realize that a new day has come and we get a fresh revelation that we still have a chance to turn things around and start all over again. When did you first hear this song and decide to make it the centerpiece, if you will, of this album and pull out the title, “Hello Tomorrow”?
Dave: It was last year in November and I was on a flight to Tokyo and I was going to do a week of shows over there. I was sitting beside Jonathan Butler actually, going over together and I was listening to iTunes on my laptop this song came up and it was a song that I had heard about 4 years prior. Dana came into my office and played me this song and I’ve always loved it. And totally randomly it came up again. Because at the time I was kind of toying with the idea of what this album would be all about. And so it was just one of those things where I was like here is that song; I wondered whatever happened to that song. So I played it for Jonathan and he said oh my god, that song is incredible; and it was just a demo. So the first email I wrote when I got to Tokyo was to Dana Glover and I said Dana, it’s Dave Koz whatever happened to that song? She wrote back immediately and said it was never cut. No one ever did a cut and I said well timing is everything. How would you feel about doing it with me on this album and make it the centerpiece of this album and hanging everything from this track? She was like, are you serious, lol? And we did that and that’s where the album title came from too. You’re right about that song. It’s everything that a lot of people are dealing with right now. It’s a different time in their lives and looking at that it’s like wow; what do I do and how do I make sense out of this? But you know truthfully it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it’s different than what you thought, but as long as you’re breathing, as long as you can get up in the morning, you have this fresh canvas in which you can repaint. You can white it all out and start it all over again and build a whole new thing. So it’s a brilliant song and something that I totally related to. I’ve always loved it and it so gratifying that people are responding to it.
SJM: And it’s going to be featured on a TV show as well right?
Dave: Yes, the producers of Desperate Housewives heard that song and Iof the show this season, playing that song. We will be in episode number 5, October 24th playing that song.
SJM: Thanks for the date of the show. That’s exciting news.
Dave: It’s exciting because it’s a very healing song, and I think million of people will be hearing it for the first time and you never know what can happen from that.
SJM: Looking at the title of the songs on this Cd, they are all indicative of change, empowerment, hope and growth. What do you want your fans and listening audience to walk away with since this is a new beginning for you as well?
Dave: Music that has helped me get from point A to Point to B to a better place in my life, that it can help other people do this same. These are again strange and unfamiliar times. Some people are completely checking out, some are asleep and if there is something that can offset some of that, and be a small piece of the puzzle on the path to enlightenment that’s great; that’s wonderful and I’ve done good. And my goal is within reason and if this helps a few people, then it will be a success. All I can tell you is that It really worked for me, and my hope is when people hear it they will understand it’s possible for them. That’s the best that I can describe it.
SJM: Right now the airwaves are playing, “Put The Top Down”, which a collaboration with you and Brian Culbertson, and features the talents of Ritenour, Parker Jr, Miller and Shelia E. It’s a great upbeat, playful and fun song. It that why you chose it as your opener as well as your first radio release? To lighten up our mood and get us ready to enjoy the remainder of the album?
Dave: I think so. For me it was always the opening track of this album. Its’ funny, I always have the opening and the closing song. “What You Leave Behind” was the last song and “Put The Top Down” was the first. Now what happens in the middle, who knew lol? But yeah it’s a song that’s there to remind us that even if you don’t have a convertible, you can still put the top down on your own life. That means basically remembering you don’t have to be so serious. You can relax with it and enjoy whatever you’re doing. It’s about being present and showing up in that moment of your life, and in that moment whatever you’re doing to make the most of it.
SJM: You and Boney James play soprano and tenor sax in perfect agreement on “When Will I Know For Sure”. In listening to this track and looking at the name, are you seeking an answer to something yet unanswered?
Dave: In my own life my journey is about being comfortable; increasingly more comfortable with not having answers, and being okay with that. I mean we all want to know we want to know what’s happening today, tomorrow, next week, Thursday and a year from Thursday. And I think part of it is just getting to a certain age where you realize that free choice is there and it’s important, but in the end you don’t have that much control of our lives. All that we do have control over is how we think and feel about the things that happen in our lives. So not knowing, yeah that’s not a great thing; of course you want to know. But if you can get to a point where you think alright, I’m just going to enjoy this place of not knowing and whatever that brings, there’s a calmness and comfort that comes from getting okay with that; whatever that means for people.
SJM: You do the vocals on the Burt Bacharach hit, “This Guy’s In Love With You”. This was a first for you correct?
Dave: I did vocals a long time ago, but this is the first time in this modern era and I’m proud of it but I want you to know that the great singers of our world shouldn’t be worried about me lol. But I did enjoy it and it was a very important message for me to have on this album.
SJM: Was there any significance, concern or difficulty on your part in choosing this particular song as your vocal debut in this era as you said, especially since your coming out in 2004? Were there any reservations in doing this song, and also how was it working with the musical icon, Herb Alpert?
Dave: That’s why I chose this song. That’s why I sang it because I heard it with new ears. I heard it as a new anthem, a soft anthem for love of every kind. This is not a time, when so much hate and so much fear is being thrown at us from every angle, to start putting fences on what kind of love is okay. And equality, marriage equality in this particular case, is a super important thing. It’s important to me as a gay man that I should have the same rights as anybody to love who I want to love, and be afforded the rights that’s associated with that. So It’s a personal statement saying this is what I want to put out there to the world. I want to put more of these messages to combat the messages that are out there every day kind of freaking people out. So that’s why I sang it; that’s why it’s on the album and why it’s on an album specifically called “Hello Tomorrow”. As far as that issue is concerned, tomorrow is right now! The train has left the building baby (laughter by both).
Dave announced to SJM that Dana Glover had just walked into his office for an appointment, and we cut this interview short. Nevertheless, the Cd is filled with more great music. From “Getaway” which features the vocal talents of Jonathan Butler and Sheila E on percussions to, “Think Big”, that is fun, upbeat, jazz and delivers everything musically that we need. Pay close attention to “Whisper In your Ear”. It urges us to stop, be quiet and listen. You’ll even notice that there are soft murmurs throughout the song. Closing out the Cd is “What You Leave Behind” which is a quiet, peaceful and fitting tribute to both former Concord Executive Hal Gaba, and Dave’s and everyone’s beloved Wayman Tisdale.