Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dave Koz To Get Star On Walk Of Fame

Dave Koz is moving into a new "location" soon. It's right around the corner from Frank Sinatra. He still can't believe it.

"It's strange to even say it right out," the smooth-jazz saxophone virtuoso said. "But I'm going to get my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It sounds crazy, but it's true. I'm still scratching my head."

Koz, a native of Encino who now lives in the Beverly Hills flatlands, will be moving in next to Bonnie Raitt's star Sept. 22, near the landmark Capitol Records building at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Sinatra, Dean Martin and the Beatles will be right down the street.

"How did I get in this place?" wondered Koz, who'll be at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys on Sunday with fellow jazz sax man Brian Culbertson and a four-piece band. They're opening for Canadian jazz-pop singer Diana Krall. "I grew up in L.A. with that in my backyard - never, ever thinking my name would ever be there. Sinatra, Martin and the Beatles? As far as company goes, I'll take that."

He's getting it because of his successful 19-year recording career with Capitol and his role as an in-demand session player, smooth-jazz pioneer, radio-show DJ, TV host and charitable activist, among other things.

"Smooth jazz is what it's been called," said Koz, 46. "Some critics call it 'jazz lite.' But within that there are a million different ways to skin the cat. It's dangerous to label any music. If you feel it and you love it, that's really all there is to it."

Koz has been doing that on his summer tour with Cul-bertson. They're taking a break from their 21-show schedule to open for Krall.

"Each year, it's like, 'Here I go again,' " Koz said of his Side by Side tour with Culbertson, 36, from Decatur, Ill. "Why do another new show every time? But Brian kind of kicks me in the you-know-where every night. He's 10 years younger than me and reminds me of the way I was."

Unlike similar pairings, Koz and Culbertson perform together, backed by a four-piece group and emphasizing tunes from Koz's "At the Movies" (2007) and "Greatest Hits" (2008) albums and Culbertson's "Bringing Back the Funk" (2008).

"It's two artists coming together and complementing each other," said Koz, who has toured with Culbertson before. "It's high energy. A great, great time. This is really a collaboration start to finish: two artists playing a wide variety of different stuff."

Krall, 44, from Nanaimo, British Columbia, possesses a similar vocal and piano palette. The Grammy Award-winning artist's sultry style has sold millions of albums since 1990, including her current "Quiet Nights."

"She's one of my favorite artists," Koz said of Krall, who's married to Elvis Costello, a British pop-rock singer-songwriter. "She's such an incredible talent. Diana? That's who I'm listening to on a Sunday afternoon."

Maybe with a glass of wine.

Koz excitedly said his own - Koz Wine, in sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and Red Alto from Napa Vium Cellars - went on sale last week at Southern California Whole Foods stores. Northern California is next.

"It's good news," Koz said. "Why I'm so excited is wine and jazz go together so well - and it's a good way to raise a lot of money for my pet charity."

That's the Starlight Children's Foundation, which assists young people and their families during extended hospitalization and treatment for serious illnesses.

"You can drink good and do good at the same time," said Koz, who's supported the cause for 17 years. "To see smiles on the families' faces, not just the kids', is so great."

It was the saxophone that put a confident smile on the teenage Koz's face. He'd tried piano and drums and wanted to join his brother Jeff's band. It was saxophone or bust.

"It's funny, but I never had, like, an 'ah-ha' moment," Koz said. "I picked up a sax in seventh grade and will admit it felt very natural in my hand.

"It was really my best friend. I was very awkward and shy and didn't know how to express myself. The sax gave me a real important tool of social education. If music wasn't there in school, I don't know what would have happened."

Even while majoring in communications at UCLA, Koz "never thought I'd be a professional musician. I had an opportunity after college, and the next thing I knew I was signed to Capitol Records."

He quickly succeeded as a recording artist, composer and session musician. After he and his brother wrote the theme song for ABC's "General Hospital," in a "bit of a Hollywood story," he met cast member Emma Samms and became involved with the Starlight Children's Foundation.

He's also one of few musicians with two simultaneous, syndicated smooth-jazz radio shows - and "Frequency," a TV interview show on Fast Forward. Because of modern technology, he can do the radio shows "from a hotel room anywhere."

He's working on a new album (due out next spring) and will unwrap the Smooth Jazz Christmas tour in 2009 with the original lineup from 1990: Brenda Russell, Peter White, David Benoit and Rick Braun.

"Whatever happens, happens," Koz said. "It's just good to be out there working. Whatever people want to say, my music comes from the heart and is absolutely authentic.

"At the end of the day, if people are feeling something from the music, then I've done my job."

He's also earned his star.

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