Dave Koz – Saxophonic

With Saxophonic, Dave created the most adventurous and sax-intensive recording of his career – a scintillating fusion of R&B, funk, jazz and pop, with well-conceived detours into hip hop instrumentalism, bebop, electronica and African folk. The album is comprised of entirely original material and co-produced by Dave and his longtime touring companion Brian Culbertson. Coming off the Gold Record success of The Dance, Dave chose to work with many of the same people that have contributed to his successful career. Along with Brian, those people included his brother Jeff, Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, who co-wrote many of the songs, and Jeff Lorber. Dave said at the time of the albums release; “This record is the musical embodiment of who I am at this juncture and that is all you can ask from a recording experience.”

This likeable, ultra funky, and melodic saxman is one of the few smooth jazz performers whose consistent gold sales status, and omnipresence in the genre (including DJ’ing a morning show at one of the country’s top stations, and two annual tours) makes him a crossover superstar. But his breakneck multi-media schedule is only part of the reason he can get away with only recording a new studio album every three or four years; his discs are usually so deep in picture perfect potential hit singles that Capitol can milk the album for that long with constant radio play. He has a tough act to follow here after 1999’s magnificent The Dance spawned no less than five Top Five contemporary jazz singles. He doesn’t disappoint for a second, packing this sax-intensive collection with hook after hook amidst a mix of edgy funk, mid-tempo chill vibes, and some unique sonic experiments, including sampling old jazz tracks on the crazy-making, hip-hop scratcher “Sound of the Underground,” featuring some nifty harmonies from trumpeter Chris Botti, and a colorful move into house music with “Only Tomorrow Knows,” that may surprise those who always expect him to stay in the mainstream. Whereas The Dance was cover-happy, Saxophonic stands strong on all original tunes, broken up four at a time by Acts One, Two, and Three, which are defined by the overall vibe of the section. Act One is funkified, slickly produced (Jeff Lorber and Brian Culbertson had a hand), heavy on the horn doubling and soul, (represented by the irresistible opener “Honey-dipped”). Act Two has more ambience, and fresh, mid-tempo attitude, a balance of the feisty electronic hip-hop crackle of the title track, and the lush romance of “Definition of Beautiful,” featuring vocals by labelmate Javier. Act Three offers the aforementioned experiments, plus a torchy ballad and a colorful thumping duet with Marc Antoine. The Curtain Call ballad, “One Last Thing,” is a sweet, gospel-flavored sax-piano duet produced by Brian McKnight. One curious disappointment flutters amidst all the success here; the tracks that advertise contributions by McKnight and Bobby Caldwell only use them in a minor backing capacity. Yes, this makes things more “saxophonic,” but why bring such talent on the journey if they’re hardly present in the mix? That gripe aside, with the abundance of future hits here, Koz can probably hold off till 2006 at least.

GRAMMY Awards

Year Category Peak
2004 Best Pop Instrumental Album Nominee
2003 Best Pop Instrumental Performance Nominee
2002 Best Pop Instrumental Performance Nominee

Billboard Charts

Year Chart Peak
2004 Top Heatseekers 3
2004 Top Contemporary Jazz 2
2003 The Billboard 200 129