On his new album, "Hello Tomorrow," jazz musician Dave Koz takes a few giant steps outside his comfort zone.
After 20 years with Capitol, the Los Angeles native will make his Concord Jazz debut when "Hello Tomorrow" is released Tuesday (October 12). The album marks a number of firsts for Koz. One, the saxophonist sings on the set, covering Herb Alpert's 1968 No. 1 "This Guy's in Love With You." Two, Koz recorded the entire album live, with musicians including such marquee session players as Greg Phillinganes and Paul Jackson Jr. And three, it's the first time the saxophonist has worked with several artists, including Lee Ritenour, Keb' Mo', Boney James and Marcus Miller.
"Why make another Dave Koz record? Plenty are out there," Koz says. "This was about embracing a lot of my fears and creating something fresh -- a whole lot of new that coincided with the unprecedented waves of changes people are riding now. There's no solid ground; rules are being rewritten every day."
The rules were certainly rewritten at Los Angeles' Henson Studios, where the alternately vibrant and calming "Hello Tomorrow" was recorded. According to John Burk, executive vice president of A&R and chief creative officer at Concord Music Group, who co-produced the album with Miller, the game plan was to "find a hybrid sound, to have his music evolve and really pop out."
"Not knocking his other records," Burk says, "but a lot of Dave's work was approached from a pop standpoint: programed and layered using samples and keyboards. We went for more of a live feel with live musicians interacting with and around Dave."
Koz says, "I was a complete sponge for that immediacy and excitement of making music together, for the incredible energy that comes from bouncing off each other creatively."
The project's theme of new beginnings revolves around what Koz calls the "tree trunk of the album," the Dana Glover composition "Start All Over Again." Glover sings lead and backing vocals on the song, which will be featured, along with Koz and Glover as guest characters, on the October 24 episode of "Desperate Housewives."
Koz, who came out to the Advocate magazine in 2004, views his cover of "This Guy's in Love With You" as "a new anthem for the times we're living in ... a calling card for marriage equality. It's a tender, simple message; delivering it in this way is appropriate. But I'm not kidding myself. I'm no Pavarotti."
Alpert himself plays trumpet on the track, while Ritenour handles lead guitars on carefree first single "Put the Top Down." Other album guests include Koz's recent touring mates Sheila E. and Jonathan Butler, Jeff Lorber, Christian Scott and Brian Culbertson.
Butler, Culbertson and fellow sax player Candy Dulfer will join Koz on his 13th annual Smooth Jazz Christmas tour, which kicks off November 26.
Koz, who moonlights as a winemaker, is introducing three varietals from Koz Wines this fall, named after three songs on the album: Getaway Chardonnay, Put the Top Down Sauvignon and Anything's Possible Cabernet. All proceeds from the wines' sales support the Starlight Children's Foundation, which helps seriously ill children
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