(Photo: Lori Stoll)
As Dave Koz prepares to take his final bows at the last of his 11th annual "Dave Koz And Friends Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour" stops, which officially ends on Dec. 20, the six-time Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling contemporary jazz saxophonist has much to be grateful for.
Here's just a sampling: His "Dave Koz Greatest Hits" CD (featuring classics like â€śYou Make Me Smile,â€ť â€śFaces of the Heartâ€ť and â€śCastle Of Dreams") debuted at number one and already includes the brand new, top-selling single, "Life In The Fast Lane"; his saxophone stylings will soon be heard on three tracks off Barry Manilow's upcoming album, and his dreamy visage will soon be seen in performance on the upcoming PBS special â€śLights -- a Hanukkah Celebration.â€ť But we're probably more grateful for that last one.
So as his year comes to an end and he looks forward to performing for Pres. Elect Obama at the HRC Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20 as well as being awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame later in 2009, this hunky OUT artist reflects on where he's been, shares where he's spending the holidays, and explains why he's better suited to bachelorhood.
Hi Dave, how has the tour been going?
It has been going great. It's been a strange year, definitely, but surprisingly, our attendance has been great. I've been doing this tour for 11 years now, so it's pretty well established, but I was pretty concerned with the economy and everyone's sense of life.
So do you think that maybe the general malaise has outweighed people's desires to save money, compelling fans to escape from their woes with a good show?
When I started the tour, it made sense that in complicated times, people reach for comfort food, and Christmas music is musical comfort food. The show has a lot of that; it's warm, intimate and all about family. At least for a couple hours, you can forget the craziness. It's really great and fun and nostalgic. Hopefully, we're making a lot of people happy. My favorite moment is playing 'White Christmas,' because it has a great melody, and doesn't require words to get that feeling.
What inspired you to start a Christmas show in the first place?
I was hosting a radio show and interviewing piano player David Benoit. It was 1997, and he had just lost his mom and I had just lost my dad, and we were both like, "It's a whole different world that we're dealing with, and what will we do for the holidays?" So he said, "Since the holidays are rough, let's go out and play some shows" and I said "yes." That year we did six shows, it had a good vibe, and people really enjoyed it. Then we added a few more dates each time and changed the cast again and again. The irony is that I'm a nice Jewish boy with 11 years of Christmas tours and three Christmas albums.
Well at least you're balancing it out with the upcoming PBS special â€śLights -- a Hanukkah Celebration.â€ť
Yeah, a friend of mine, Craig Taubman created the first-ever Hanukkah PBS special and invited me to be a part of it and I jumped at the opportunity, because I like being at things that are a first. And he really covered all the bases as far as genres go. He even got a Jewish rapper.
You also played with another, more famous Jewish musician, Mr. Barry Manilow.
He's an incredible musician, an endlessly inspiring person to me. How does one stay relevant and popular, like he has, for decades? He's the Will Smith of music, so focused and laser-precisioned for what he's doing. Whatever he does, he's super into it. And he can coast, he never needs to work again, but every time he takes on a project, he pours everything into it. That kind of career, I hope 20 years from now, I hope to still be doing it from my walker.
You are about to be recognized in your own right with your very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That must be exciting.
It's surreal. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an iconic thing. I'm incredibly flattered, because growing up in L.A. it's a main part of Los Angeles life. To be included and recognized like this is proof positive that I'll be sticking around for a while.
Growing up in L.A., I'd imagine that in your childhood you would have walked Hollywood Blvd. searching out some of your most beloved stars. Which ones were particular favorites?
I love classic musicians, so Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat King Cole. I actually selected a place for my star right outside of the Capitol Records building, which has been my recording home for 20 years. They have other Capitol artists like The Beatles, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt and Frank Sinatra's stars around the perimeter. But there's one spot open, so we claimed that spot. I don't know if I'll get it, but I hope it will be the place for it.
You've had so many wishes granted in 2008. What is your wish for the coming year?
I don't want to sound clichĂ©, but there's a movement happening now that I'm excited about -- that people in the U.S. are becoming less self-centered and more global. They're thinking about how they can make this planet a better place. On a large macro level, that movement is getting stronger. It's the first time in a long time that we're dealing with such fear and uncertainty, and I'm excited about the potential of where the world will go, if that movement continues to take over the current fear, non-trust and aggression. I'm thinking specifically about Prop. 8, and this might be controversial to say, but I think it might be the best thing that could have happened, because now everyone's mobilized. It's a foregone conclusion that as long as we're patient, gay marriage could be a reality if we mobilize and really focus our efforts on the community, instead of just thinking about me and us.
I've never been to a political rally, but after it passed, I found myself at a big rally in L.A., as just one of the crowd. Community support is important to push things forward, to make sure we're all heard, and to gain equality.
Do you feel connected to the gay community?
Absolutely. I don't feel like I'm a spokesperson in that way, although I'm OUT and there are still not that many musicians and artists that are OUT. But there are more to come, I'm sure. I definitely feel part of it on my own personal level with friends and family, and part of the overall community. I'm actually performing at the HRC Inaugural Ball with Rufus Wainwright and Melissa Etheridge, and I'm so excited and a nervous wreck.
Is the gay community a big supporter of your music?
I think there's a place for instrumental music in everyone's listening habits but most people say that gay people have a penchant for certain kinds of music, so I guess my music isn't targeted for that audience. But there's a place for an instrumental album in everyone's life. With instrumentals, you get a blank canvas, because you don't have words to focus on, so you're giving the listener the opportunity to paint their own picture. Plus, the sax is a very communicative instrument in the right person's hands -- it can be bittersweet, super sad, happy and jovial, and everything in between. It's my best friend; no matter what I'm feeling inside, I can use it as a vehicle to get that out. Also, one reason that instrumentals are popular in other parts of the world is because there is no language barrier.
Now that the tour is winding down, how does Dave Koz spend the holidays?
Because I travel so much for this tour, from right before Thanksgiving to Christmas, usually when I get home, I just want to sleep in my own bed. I like to catch up on some of the great movies that are out now, I like to see my family, and I'm really about catching up with people. On Christmas Eve, I'll probably go to a party. I'll probably have a family day on Christmas Day and spend time with my god kids on Christmas night. Overall I like to lay low, and stay close to home, friends and family -- that sort of thing.
I like to work on New Year's Eve. There's a tendency for people to make too much out of it, but it's just another night like all the rest. I usually do a lot of soul searching around the New Year, putting things in my personal life into motion for the year ahead. On New Year's Day I'm doing the Rose Parade with all the 'Dancing With The Stars' people, so I can't stay up too late the night before.
OK, so turning to your personal life, I know from a previous interview that we did that you're currently single. Would you say that having a relationship isn't a priority for you right now?
I think it's absolutely an important thing for me, but it's not been a part of my life for the last several years. But I'm a big believer that whatever you want, it's there if you want it; so if I'm not in a relationship and haven't been for a while, then it's not the season for it right now. But I very much look forward to it at the right time in my life.
Honestly, it's difficult to be in a relationship with me when my primary relationship is with music. With all the traveling I do, my whole life is not set up too well for a sustainable relationship. Some people find love really early in their lives and some people, later. My aunt, who's 80-years-old, her husband died years ago and she recently found the second love of her life, which makes you think, "your 80-year-old aunt has more sex than you!" It's pretty depressing, but there's a lesson learned there.
Check out Dave Koz's instrumental version of the holiday classic: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" here: