About JazzErie


Dave KozAn interview with Dave Koz

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Koz will be featured in a show with singer/songwriter Barry Manilow at Erie Insurance Arena on Monday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets $20 and up.  Call 1-800-295-55354.

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"Like a prayer…”  That's how Dave Koz describes his effort to present the melodies he plays ...“without a lot of adornment,  but with passion.”  

Listen to Dave Koz and that’s what you get.   A pure, recognizable sound.   A lively, accessible presentation.   But, more than anything, a profound commitment to melody -- not just any melody, but the particular melody he’s playing – with lots of nuance, but not much ornamentation.   Delivered with a conviction that makes it seem inevitable.  “I look at melody as a journey.  How do you get there?  There are many routes…I favor the more direct ones.”

Koz has  jazz chops as well, but “I learned early on in my career that there are plenty of people who can run rings around me in jazz improvisation, so I decided to focus on what I can do best, and what I really love, which is playing great melodies with all my heart and soul.”

The result?   A phenomenon in today’s pop world – an instrumentalist.  

Koz notes that “back in ‘30’s and ‘40’s instrumentalists like Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman held center stage and singers were off to the side.”  ( Ed.’s note: This was before his time – Koz was born in 1963 -- but I’m old enough to remember, and he’s right.)  Times have changed.  Now the singers/ rappers/hip-hop D.J.s are at the center of all things pop.

But Koz’ track record belies this current norm.  Per his website,  in the 25 years since his debut album, Koz has had  nine Grammy nominations.  And nine albums topped Billboard’s  “Current Contemporary Jazz” sales charts (“At The Movies” remained #1 for 12 weeks).  He has a star on the Hollywood “Walk Of Fame,”  plays world tours with his band, has led  a number of  “Dave Koz Cruise” expeditions (the next one, in 2017, to Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean ports, is already sold out), has completed 21 years as a syndicated radio show host,  and more.  He’s a busy guy.  Oh yes, and he owns Koz Winery and is a key backer of Starlight Childen’s Foundation.

Barry ManilowWhat’s it like working with Barry Manilow?

 “I’ve known and worked with Barry for a number of years, so it’s very comfortable.  What people don’t realize about Barry is what a great an all-around musician he is.  He’s a great arranger and is very involved in all aspects of the show.  He’s never satisfied until the project is fully realized.

“For me, getting a chance to be the opening act for his show with my band (Dave Cooper – drums, Tracy Carlton – keyboards, Adam Hawley – guitar, Nathaniel Kearney, Jr. – bass) , is something I haven’t done for awhile, because I’ve been touring with my own show.

“Many people come because of Barry, and have never heard of me.   So I have 30 minutes to make my case, and I try to approach  it with laserlike precision.   It’s an exciting challenge.

“Then Barry comes on with his show and his ensemble, and I join him for a couple of numbers at the end.  Overall, it’s a lot of fun.  I’m looking forward to bringing the show to Erie.  I don’t think I’ve played there before.”

(A home-town note:  Judi Kerr, Kos’ Publicity Coordinator, is from Erie, and facilitated this interview.  She’s thrilled to have her boss coming to her home town.  She hopes we’ll give him a great Erie welcome.)


“I’m a born collaborator.  That’s the title of my newest album, ‘Collaboration.’  I enjoy working on projects that bring people together.”  (I mentioned that I had enjoyed the collaborations in his previous album “At The Movies”, many of which are mounted as videos on YouTube .  I particularly liked the one with Johnny Mathis.  Koz, this time on tenor, and Mathis are clearly listening closely to each other and enjoying it.)   Koz responded:  “I kept glancing over and I was thinking ‘I can’t believe this.  I’m really doing this with Johnny Mathis!’  My parents loved him, so he was a big influence in our household.”

The current Collaborations album features a more than impressive list of contemporary pop artists who either recorded new material for the album with Koz, or are featured in past recordings with Koz which are included on the disc. 

Try this on for size and scope:  Stevie Wonder, Erie Benet, Gloria Estefan, Marcus Miller, Jeff Lorber, Rod Stewart, Brian Culbertson and Keb’ Mo’, Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross, Herb Alpert, Stevie Nicks, Jeff Lorber, Boney James, Johnny Mathis, David Benoit, Michael McDonald and Summer Horns, and more.  

Enjoy this melodist with another great song specialist, Barry Manilow, at the Erie Insurance Arena on Monday, April 25, 7:30 p.m.  Tickets online at  barry-manilow.tickets-center.com/ or call 1-800-295-5354.

by Dick Thompson
April 6, 2016