TSJR Featured Artist

Each month, TSJR will feature here an artist (or group), either new or well-established, who has impressed our staff recently or over the years. This month’s spotlight is on… 

Dave Koz - Smooth Jazz’s “Energizer Bunny”

Dave Koz is one of the most likable and successful musicians on the smooth jazz scene today.  His career as a solo recording artist began over twenty years ago with the release of his self- titled album in 1990.  He has since released 13 more albums, and I am happy to say he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.   He sees the beginning of a new century as a time filled with change and new opportunities.   He is excited for the future and embraces the changes the future brings.   He wants his music to reflect the new world springing up around him.
Koz was born in 1963 and raised in the San Fernando Valley of California.   As a child, he took piano lessons, but he didn’t like the piano much and says he never played it very well. However, his mother insisted that he stick with it for a while.  Although the piano never became a performance instrument for him, he says he is grateful for her persistence because he now does most of his composing on the piano.
When Koz was a teenager, he wanted a spot in his brother’s band;  so, when the band needed a saxophone player, his brother suggested he learn to play the sax to fill the open spot.  He began playing at the age of 13 and, two years later, joined the band.  He had found his instrument at last, and his life, he says, was changed forever.  He goes on to say, “The saxophone became my best friend, my most trusted ally, because it enabled me to communicate feelings that I didn’t have the words for.  In many ways it saved my life.”

Koz didn’t immediately envision a career in music for himself.  He briefly considered becoming a doctor like his dad, but the years of school didn’t excite him too much, and he decided to explore other career options.  The future sax man went to school at UCLA and graduated with a degree in Mass Communication.  Surprisingly, it was only after graduating college that he realized that there was a possibility of making a living as a musician and decided to give it a try. It wasn’t long before he landed jobs playing with artists such as Jeff Lorber, Bobby Caldwell, and Richard Marx.  He soon signed with Capitol Records and began his career playing the sax as a solo artist.  In 2010, he decided to make a change and signed with Concord Records.  With his new label, he has produced Hello Tomorrow, a new CD that reflects his optimistic and hopeful approach to the world around him.

Koz has definitely had an impact in the music world as an artist, but his influence actually goes beyond that of a regular musician.  Not long after he began his solo career, he began to feel that there were many musicians deserving of recognition, particularly instrumentalists, who were being overlooked and he couldn’t figure out why.  Instead of complaining about it, he took the opportunity to run for a seat on the Board of Governors for the Grammy Foundation.   After becoming a member of the board, it didn’t take him long to realize that artists, like him, did not fit into any established category and were therefore passed over for Grammy nominations.   He quickly helped draft and pass a proposal creating more award categories.  These new categories have enabled a greater variety of artists and genres to gain the recognition they deserve.   He has also served as a trustee for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.  He hosts the syndicated Dave Koz Show on weekends and a daily show on the Smooth Jazz Network.   He is also deeply involved in the Starlight Foundation, a charitable organization whose mission it is “to help seriously ill children and their families cope with their pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities.”  Koz has been a Global Ambassador for The Starlight Foundation for the last 15 years and has even developed Koz Wine, which is sold exclusively to raise money for his favorite charity.

The music industry itself is undergoing big changes.  It isn’t hard to see that technology has changed the way people obtain and listen to music.  No longer is the music fan tied to whatever the local radio station decides to play.  Different genres and artists can be found all over the internet and it is easier than ever for a performer to find new listeners, but it can also be more difficult for an artist to get paid for his work.   This affects every artist in the industry, but Koz still believes the most important thing an artist can do is to make music that he is passionate about.  His goal with each new project is to produce an album that is a true and honest reflection of who he is at that time.  He is adamant that the music must come first, and the business should work around the creation of the art.  He does not spend time worrying about the changing business end of music.  He says, “I have seen it over and over and over in my life. Good music always wins.  The music always wins.”  — Annette Olsen

Some source material from DaveKoz.com and interviews