Dave Koz: The Soundtrack of Our Lives
“ I just wanted to honor the composers and treat the songs with respect. I realized very early on in the process, that as long as I did that - - the songs would never let me down. ”
His latest Capitol release, At The Movies, is captivating and sure to appeal to an eclectic audience of all ages.
AAJ's Katrina-Kasey Wheeler spoke to Koz to discuss his CD release, and his plans for 2007.
All About Jazz: Your release, At The Movies is sure to be tremendously successful. It is an impressive album.
Dave Koz: I feel the same way; I am crazy about this album. I love it, because it is me. It is what I love, I love these songs, and I love the movies. When you do something that you really put your heart and soul into and it feels right, you always hope that people will feel that on the other end when they hear the CD. If listeners feel that, then that is the best thing that they can say to me.
AAJ: What led you to record this particular type of album, apart from your love of the movies? Do you feel the timing is right?
DK: I wanted to do something different and absolutely, this is a project that combines the two things that I love most: music and the movies. I am happiest when I am watching a movie. I love that feeling of being taken away completely and I am certainly not the only one.
Here we are in 2007 with so many things competing for our attention in the entertainment sector, and yet movies which are so old fashioned, are still so popular with all age groups in every culture. There is something about that experience that is unlike anything else, and the music from movies is unlike any other music because it has this extra power. It is not just the emotion from the song itself, but the emotion that comes with that song that reminds someone of when they saw that movie, who they were with and what they were going through in their life at that time period.
These songs and themes have a lot going for themthere is a lot of meat on the bone for me to sink my teeth into whether I am playing an instrumental or accompanying one of the vocalists telling the story. It is a very rich project. Working with Phil Ramone, who is one of the all time legendary music producers has given me a chance to really flex some new muscles.
AAJ: When a project is released that allows us to reconnect with much-loved songs, it is, by and large, widely welcomed from listeners. It is nice to see the appetite of audiences reverting back to songs where everything was about the lyrics and melodies as opposed to a lot of music today, where contrived images are taking precedence over the actual artistry.
DK: Also, this album is very different from what I have done in the past, where there are a lot of fast and frenetic drum machines, loops, and percussionfast and funky. This album is so slow motion, it is really relaxed and it really takes its time and develops. I don't think that we set out to do that, but that is just the way the music is. It goes to a different section of the heart in some weird way that I really can't put my finger on.
These songs are still popular so many years later for a very good reasonthey are really good. I just wanted to honor the composers and treat the songs with respect. I realized very early on in the process, that as long as I did thatthe songs would never let me down.
AAJ: There are so many great songs to choose from. Was it difficult for you to decide which songs to record?
DK: That was the hardest part of the project for sure because, if you just opened it up to songs that specifically came out of the moviesyou were talking about a lot of music there. I remember getting into very good-natured arguments with my producer Phil Ramone. We would sit there and say, "What are you crazy? This song has got to be on the album! Then Phil would say, "You are out of your mind that song should be on the B-list. Probably two months of that went by before we collected these twelve songs, and there are so many that we didn't do that would make a very nice sequel.
AAJ: Perhaps that will be in the future!
DK: I would like it.
AAJ: There are so many talented artists that you collaborated with on this project. Barry Manilow, Chris Botti, Anita Baker and the list continues on. Was that part of a clear vision?
DK: With songs like "Moon River it is such an iconic piece of musicyou can't have just anybody sing it. You need to have a singer that matches the weight of that song. It is funny with vocalists on this album, it just happened. I look back when people have asked me that question, "How did you assign the singer to the song, and it was like I didn't even know how that happened. I woke up one day and I looked at who we got and I had to ask myself, "How did this happen? How did Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, India.Arie, Vanessa Williams, Anita Baker, and Donna Summerall these amazing artists become part of this project?
When I look back and try to explain it, really, the songs found the artists rather than the artists finding the songs. It was kismet. I was interviewing Anita Baker for my radio show and very matter of fact, she asked me, "What are you working on? and I said, "I am making this movie record, and she asked, "What songs are you doing? and I said, "'Somewhere,' from Westside Story. Anita said, "What? I love that song! and she started to sing it. It was great! I said to myself, "Should I do it, should I ask her?
Finally I asked her if she would be open to singing it on the album, and she said, "I thought you would never ask. Two weeks later, she was in the studio singing on that song, and that is the way it happened. Johnny Mathis was the same way. India.Arie grew up having her mother sing, "It Might Be You, to her, which is her mother's favorite song. When she found out about the project she said, "That is the song I would like to sing, from Tootsie, so we said, absolutely it is yours!
AAJ: That is really a blessing to have everything come together like that, so seamlessly.
DK: It took a long time for it all to work, in terms of scheduling, but we were very blessed to have these artists want to be a part of this project.
AAJ: These songs are really loved by so many people did you at all feel pressure to make them your own? Was that on your mind going into the recording process?
DK: As a saxophonist, yes. My natural tendency was to just say, this is going to be my version of, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow, and my version of "The Pink Panther. I learned very early on in the recording process that the biggest person to help me get over that hump was Phil. He taught me early-on that I didn't need to remake these songsit just wasn't necessary. The most important thing was to play them, respect them, and honor the composers, because they are around this many years later because there is nothing wrong with them; so why would you need to change them, just to change them?
At the same time, we decided to find this little hybrid where we would hire the right arranger to arrange the song a slightly different way, using different harmonies, and subtle effects to make this obviously a different arrangement, but yet totally with respect to the original. I think that we found the right balance.
AAJ: Do you think that an artist should ever have to sacrifice their artistic vision in order to achieve or maintain mainstream success?
DK: That is a good question. You have to remember as a recording artist that you are in a businessthe music business. You are making records that are to be sold, so if you are signed to a label, you can't completely ignore that the whole arrangement is one that is a business arrangement: they are signing you to make music that people will buy. Does that mean that every record sells a million copies? Not necessarily. There is tremendous artistic freedom at certain record companies.
I am a co-founder of a company called Rendezvous, and we pride ourselves on giving the artists that we sign the artistic freedom to do what they want. There is also a lot of trust that we have with the artists that we sign, that they are going to create music that we can market and sell. I think it is just a fine line. You have to be able to make music that holds true for you, because you cannot fake it. People are too smart. I can hear certain things any day of the week where people are trying to do something and when they do that, you can hear it. But, when you can combine something that has artistic merit with accessibility, then you have a potential homerun. Nothing is for certain anymore. This business is in a complete state of change.
AAJ: Speaking of Rendezvous, how did that come about? Was that part of your artistic vision?
DK: It was a total organic thing. It was really more or less, meeting the right people: my business partners Hyman Katz who I have known for years. He was working in the music business as I was, and we starting talking about doing something together, and then Frank Cody came into the picture and we morphed our company together to be a record company. We could have done other things too, but I think it was the idea of producing and releasing music that the three of us could all understand, work on and execute. It certainly is challenging.
AAJ: You have signed so many successful artists to your label: The Philippe Saisse Trio, Marc Antoine, Kirk Whalum, the list continues on. That certainly must be rewarding to know that you are helping to bring to fruition the artists' dream, while at the same time realizing your aspirations as well.
DK: Yes, and they are helping me. I have the opportunity to hang out with and help a guy like Kirk Whalum achieve his dreams. He is my favorite living tenor saxophonist. He is incredible, and I get a chance to be on his team. So yes, as much as we might be doing for them, they do for us, too.
AAJ: You have accomplished so much: what has it been like to have such a highly successful radio show and annual cruise phenomenon?
DK: It is fun because they are different offshoots and it allows me to explore different sides of myself. They are both things that were brought up to me, and my first response was, "What?! You want me to host a radio show? I had never done that before, but I said, "I'll do it, and I learned that I really enjoyed it. I had a great time.
The same thing happened a few years ago with the cruise. I was offered the chance to host a cruise, I had never done it, in fact I didn't even like shipsbut, I did it, and I loved it. All the experiences that I have, whether it is television, radio, or touringthey are all part of a whole, they all fit together in a way that I understand, and I enjoy it.
AAJ: That is so important: when you are doing something that you love, success if sure to follow.
DK: Right, absolutely.
AAJ: What are your plans to promote this album? Will you be embarking upon an extensive tour?
DK: Our tour will probably start in the late spring and go all summer, followed by some international touring in the fall, and into winter with our Christmas tourwhich we have been doing for many years. We will be doing around seventy shows this year.
AAJ: Wonderful, your fans will have many opportunities to catch a show.
DK: I think so and I would invite them to check periodically on my website to keep abreast of what is happening.
AAJ: Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?
DK: This year hallmarks the twentieth year of my professional career. Sometimes it seems like a dream and the journey has been incredible, but only because people have been supportive of me for all these years. I think jazz in general has tremendously loyal fans, and that is the reason why this journey has been so enjoyable to meto see those people sticking with me, year after year. It is my earnest hope that people will enjoy their time At The Movies, and that this will be another step along that journey.
Dave Koz, At The Movies (Capitol, 2007)
Dave Koz, Saxophonic (Capitol, 2003)
Dave Koz, Golden Slumbers: A Father's Lullaby (Warner Bros / Wea, 2002)
Dave Koz, Smooth Jazz Christmas (Capitol, 2000)
Dave Koz, The Dance (Capitol, 1999)
Dave Koz, December Makes Me Feel This Way (Capitol, 1997)
Dave Koz, Off The Beaten Path (Capitol, 1996)
Dave Koz, Lucky Man (Capitol, 1993)
Dave Koz, Dave Koz (Capitol, 1990)
Courtesy of Amazon