In a recording career that spans nearly three decades, saxophonist Dave Koz has racked up an astoundingly impressive array of honors and achievements: nine GRAMMY® nominations, 11 No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart, numerous world tours, 13 sold-out Dave Koz & Friends At Sea cruises, performances for multiple U.S. presidents, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and appearances on a multitude of television shows, including “Good Morning America,” “The View,” “The Tonight Show,” “Entertainment Tonight” and more. A Platinum-selling artist, Koz is also known as a humanitarian, entrepreneur, radio host and instrumental music advocate.
Five years after recording their initial tribute to the great horn sections of soul, jazz and pop, Dave Koz and Friends reprised the all-star, crowd-pleasing format of that smash hit outing with 2018’s Summer Horns II From A To Z. The album features Koz on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes—along with alto saxophonist Gerald Albright, tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot, Rick Braun (trumpet) and Aubrey Logan (trombone and vocals), plus guest vocalists Jonathan Butler, Kenny Lattimore and Sheléa—putting their own spin on classics by Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, Natalie Cole, Earth, Wind & Fire and more. Plus a guest spot from Gloria Estefan on an inspired recreation of her classic “Conga.”
Summer Horns II From A To Z—Koz’s 11th album to top Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart—takes the original concept further by changing up the lineup and tossing in some unexpected surprises, including a medley that miraculously blends a Duke Ellington swing classic with a more contemporary hit by hip-hop star Jay-Z. The album includes arrangements by Greg Adams (Tower of Power), Tom Scott (Michael Jackson, Steely Dan) and Gordon Goodwin. “We looked at this as a completely new project because it was different personnel,” says Koz. “We said, if we want to do another version of Summer Horns, we can absolutely change the concept and get a little more adventurous—the music deserves it.”
Since the beginning of his career, Dave Koz has been all about shaking things up, dodging expectations and traditions. Summer Horns II From A To Z follows another milestone anniversary recording, 2017’s Dave Koz and Friends 20th Anniversary Christmas, which celebrated the saxophonist’s annual holiday tours and reunited him with pianist David Benoit, Braun and acoustic guitarist Peter White. Also on hand were a cadre of talented vocalists and the Portugal-based West European Symphony Orchestra.
The lineup on Summer Horns II From A To Z and the 2017 Christmas project marked just the latest in a long list of artists with whom Koz has collaborated over the years, including Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Valerie Simpson, Gloria Estefan, Luther Vandross, Shelby Lynne, Kenny Loggins, U2, Michael McDonald, Rod Stewart and The Foo Fighters.
Koz has also recently begun digging into the hidden corners of his catalog, treating his fans to a series he calls “Lost Koz”: previously unreleased gems recorded over the years that, for one reason or another, never made it to his albums. “The music business has changed so much over the years,” Koz says. “There’s really nothing holding you back from doing whatever you want to do.”
Late in 2017 Koz also appeared as himself in a Hallmark movie called Sharing Christmas, which also used some of the music from the 20th Anniversary Christmas album.
Then, of course, there is the Dave Koz & Friends at Sea Cruise. What began as a single cruise to Alaska in 2011 has become an annual international phenomenon, with demand so strong that Dave Koz & Friends began offering two back-to-back voyages a year in 2017, when the cruise to Venice, Italy sold out immediately, followed by two voyages for the 2018 cruise to Scandinavia and the Baltic
“This year we had sold-out back-to-back cruises for Australia, and next year we’ve already sold out back-to-back for two weeks in Amsterdam and the British Isles,” says Koz.
Koz also has not one, but two radio programs: The Dave Koz Radio Show, on the air uninterrupted for 25 years, and The Dave Koz Lounge which can be heard on SiriusXM.
“I love hospitality and giving to people,” Koz says. “As a cruise host and when you’re coming to see a show or on the radio, it’s all about an inviting environment for people to come hang out in. I’ve also done a lot of work with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which is my family’s favorite charity, which helps kids who are hospitalized for long periods of time and their families. We’ve also made a wine for close to 10 years called KOZ Wine that raises money specifically for Starlight and with our silent auctions that we do on the cruises every year, through the generosity of our fans, we’ve raised over a million dollars for Starlight.” KOZ Wines recently introduced a new KOZ Rosé, available now at Whole Foods Markets in Southern California, Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada.
If that all sounds like the work of ten people rather than one, it’s just business as usual for Dave Koz. Since his emergence as a young rising star in the ’80s, he’s always looked to try new things, both in his music and in his other pursuits.
Born and raised in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, Koz initially saw the saxophone as a way to gain entry into his big brother’s band. What began as a ploy became a lifelong obsession. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in mass communications, Koz decided to become a professional musician. Within weeks of that decision, he was recruited as a touring member of singer Bobby Caldwell’s (“What You Won’t Do For Love”) band. It was during this time that Koz befriended keyboardist Jeff Lorber, who invited Koz to play on one of his tours. That stint was followed by a 14-month tour with pop singer Richard Marx.
Signed to Capitol Records by Bruce Lundvall in 1987, Koz released his self-titled solo debut album in the fall of 1990. This was the first installment in a large body of best-selling work, which includes the Gold-certified Lucky Man (1993), Off the Beaten Path (1996) and the holiday-themed albums December Makes Me Feel This Way (1997) and Dave Koz & Friends: A Smooth Jazz Christmas (2001). His Gold-certified fifth album, The Dance (1999), spawned no less than five Top 5 contemporary jazz hits. Saxophonic (2003) produced another four Top 5 singles and garnered two GRAMMY® nominations in two consecutive years.
In 2007, Koz released two chart-topping collections of standards. At the Movies, his lush, romantic celebration of timeless melodies from cinema, spent 12 weeks atop Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart. Produced by the legendary Phil Ramone, it was nominated for a GRAMMY® in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category. Memories of a Winter’s Night, a festive collection of holiday standards, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz chart in December 2007. Dave Koz at the Movies Double Feature CD + DVD followed in early 2008, which featured the At the Movies CD with two previously unreleased bonus audio tracks, a new DVD and a track-by-track commentary. Along the way, his numerous television appearances led to stints as band member on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” as band leader on “Emeril Live” and as host of PBS’s “Frequency.”
Capitol Records released Dave Koz: Greatest Hits, his first-ever retrospective album, in the fall of 2008 and it debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and iTunes’ Jazz Album chart. The collection featured many of Koz’s smash singles, including “Castle of Dreams,” “Can’t Let You Go” (featuring Luther Vandross), “Together Again,” “Honey-Dipped” and “All I See Is You,” plus four brand new songs. The lead single, “Life in the Fast Lane,” which Koz co-wrote with writer/producer Darren Rahn, spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the R&R Monitored Smooth Jazz chart. It was followed by the Top 5 single, “Bada Bing.”
Hello Tomorrow, Dave’s first album for Concord Records, debuted at No. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart and iTunes’ Jazz Album chart, and was named Best Smooth Jazz Album of 2010 by iTunes. The CD was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Hailed as “an event record” by The New York Times, its lead single, ‘Put the Top Down,” spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on the Mediabase Smooth A/C chart—the longest stint at No. 1 of any of Koz’s chart-topping hits. Ultimate Christmas, featuring 18 perennial holiday classics performed by Koz, bowed in 2011 on Capitol/EMI. Live at the Blue Note Tokyo, Koz’s first live CD, was released by Concord Records in 2012 and received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
Koz and his friends Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot and Mindi Abair turned to producer Paul Brown (Al Jarreau, George Benson, Boney James) to help them realize the vision for 2013’s first outing of Summer Horns (Concord Records), which paid tribute to the high-octane, richly arranged horn sections that fueled so many hits in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The album also features trumpeter/flugelhornist Rick Braun, trombonist Brian Culbertson, vocalists Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne and Jonathan Butler, plus arrangements by Greg Adams (Tower of Power) and Tom Scott (Michael Jackson, Steely Dan). Topping it off is a sax-only rendition of “Take Five” with Gordon Goodwin offering his arrangement to the quartet and a new original composition, “Summer Horns.” The album was honored with a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album and an NAACP Image Awards nomination for Outstanding Jazz Album.
Koz’s 2014 holiday recording, The 25th of December (Concord Records), was his eighth album to top Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart. Produced by Rickey Minor, it featured collaborations with India.Arie, Eric Benet, Jonathan Butler, Gloria Estefan, Fantasia, Kenny G, Heather Headley, Richard Marx, Johnny Mathis, Trombone Shorty, BeBe Winans and Stevie Wonder. The first single, an all-star rendition of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” beautifully captured the spirit of the season and was a Top 5 hit on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Songs chart. Collaborations: 25th Anniversary Collection debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Current Contemporary Jazz Albums chart in August 2015 while the lead single, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” with Kenny Lattimore and Rick Braun, entered the Top 5 at Smooth A/C and Jazz Radio.
Koz is constantly touring, with annual summer and holiday tours. Another Summer Horns tour kicks off in July 2019. He completed a four-year term on the GRAMMY® Foundation Artists Committee and has served as National Trustee for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS).
“Always front and center is the music. It’s humbling, this many years in such a fickle business, to still have a career, still be able to go out and tour and make records,” he says. “Music has been such a blessing to me, and we need it more than ever today.”