It is his passion for his music, his desire to live his life more fully and his courage to follow his instincts that led Dave Koz Off The Beaten Path. His long-awaited third release reflects his personal and professional growth, promising a moving and uniquely satisfying listening experience that is, undoubtedly the best and most inspired work of his career. Koz takes his music and his sax to places uncharted. "This is a new sound - new to me and to the listener, but it isn't change for the sake of change or jumping on any kind of bandwagon. I truly feel that this sound found me."
The new sound focuses on a live sound, replacing drum machines and synthesizers with live musicians. "I'm going back to the genuine roots of the instruments for a more organic sound. We've got guitar, mandolin, accordion, harmonica ... not instruments one generally associates with the sax. It's a less crowded sound, and the sax is featured in its full glory - the sound is real, intimate and immediate."
Dave first picked up a saxophone in junior high school, and upon graduation from UCLA, played his first professional gig with Bobby Caldwell. According to Caldwell, Dave's growth as an artist and his musical success are no surprise. 'He has great musical sensibilities and a special charm, both as performer and a person. I instinctively knew he wouldn't be with me for long." Long-time collaborator, friend and co-writer on Off The Beaten Path, Jeff Lorber, agrees. "I stopped his 1986 audition with my band after only a few bars and said: 'you have the gig. I'll help you get a record deal and you're going to be a solo artist."
It was at the urging of both Caldwell and Lorber that Dave Koz decided to parlay his session and support musician roles into a solo career. The results of that leap are two of Contemporary Jazz's greatest success stories of the decade. His 1990 self-titled debut release spent 25 weeks on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and produced the Top Ten Nothing But The Radio On and Koz's first #l - Castle of Dreams. The album was double platinum in Malaysia and gold in Singapore. Ultimately, it ranked #8 on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Records for the year.
The 1993 release of <I<>brought Koz even greater success and notoriety. Spending more than two years on Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and selling more than 650,000 CDs and cassettes, Luck~ Man brought Koz his first gold record and launched a 132-show tour resulting in sell-out crowds and opportunities to open for Kenny Loggins and Michael Bolton. In addition, the album included Faces Of The Heart, co-written with Koz's brother, Jeff, which had been chosen by ABCs long running General Hospital as their first new theme song in 30 years.
The success of these two projects brought Dave Koz to the forefront of the music industry, bringing with it a cadre of offers and opportunities. One of the most notable was Koz' s regular Thursday night gig on The Arsenio ~Hall Show sitting in with the Posse - prompting new audiences to take notice. In addition to guest appearances on General Hospital, Koz also appeared on ABC's Family Matters and Fox's Beverly Hills 90210. Always in demand, his unmistakable sax sound can be heard on recordings of well-known artists such as Celine Dion, U2, Curtis Stigers, Phil Perry, Stevie Nicks, Vanessa Williams, Julio Inglesias, et al.
A very special moment for Dave Koz was being invited to perform at President Clinton's Inaugural Celebration along side some of the saxophone's biggest and brightest stars including: Tom Scott, Grover Washington, Jr. and David Sanborn. And always a priority for Koz to give to others, he lent his support on behalf of organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy, Easter Seals, Juvenile Diabetes, The Starlight Foundation and a variety of AIDS organizations.
All of this success could have brought out a certain sense of complacency and a fear of branching out creatively - it might have been easier to play it safe. But Dave's instincts were telling him to follow his heart and in late 1994, Koz began a personal journal of Off The Beaten Path, which included relocation to Northern California to "take some time for myself and refill the creative well", the birth of the music for this release - for which he wrote or co-wrote every song, and the launching of his tremendously successful syndicated radio show, "Personal Notes, Hosted by Dave Koz".
First airing in February 1995, the music-intensive "Personal Notes" gained instant popularity and a lion' s share of the Arbitron ratings in major markets across the country. Each week, Dave interviews a well-known jazz artist such as Al Jarreau, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, David Sanborn or George Benson and, inevitably, a jazz fan like Billy Crystal, Danny Glover, Bill Cosby or Jerry Seinfeld drops by for a visit. According to Sony Worldwide Networks Exec, Paul Goldstein, Koz' s ease with his guests and his ability to have fun with the show are major reasons for its success: "He's a natural!" The weekly radio show currently reaches over four million people through 100 affiliates nationwide, and Sony Worldwide Networks is set to launch the show internationally this summer.
Off The Beaten Path sets itself apart from previous Dave Koz recordings in a number of ways. His personal growth is evidenced in both the musical composition and the recording process of his latest project. "I've discovered the joy of people making music together. I think the listener will hear the energy in each and every cut".
In addition to having a hand in the composition of each song and recording all the basic tracks live in the studio, Dave co-produced the project from start to finish along with composer/producer/brother, Jeff and one of the most innovative and sought after producers in the business, Thom Panunzio. Panunzio's credits read like a who's who in the music business - and include Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan, U2, Tom Petty, Aerosmith and The Reverend Horton Heat. While Koz has partnered with brother, Jeff, before, this experience was a special one. The results are wonderful, says Jeff. "It is amazing and gratifying to have three talented individuals working together each committed to making the best record we can."
Also among the firsts for Koz - Off The Beaten Path will be an enhanced CD, offering a rare view of the saxman and including a behind the scenes look at the recording process, a look at Koz's personal journal, interviews, photos, video footage and website info. "It will provide a broad sense of the whole recording experience - how the music came alive," Koz shared.
Alive may be one of the best words to describe Off The Beaten Path. Clearly, the quality and the integrity of the recording process was a priority for Dave. In addition to his careful selection of a dynamic production team, Koz surrounded himself with outstanding musicians who shared his vision of a "loose, live, in the moment" recording experience. Those offering their creative talent to this project include: legendary blues/folk acoustic guitarist, Leo Kottke; the widely renowned pedal steel guitarist, Greg Leisz (k.d. lang, Lyle Lovett); Tower of Power veterans, Greg Adams and Chester Thompson; Also, lending musical support were Greg Arreguin (Seal, Chris Isaak) on guitars, Dave Piltch (k.d.lang, Paul Young) on bass, Mark Shulman (Foreigner, Simple Minds) on drums, Tim Pierce on acoustic guitars, and drummer extraordinaire, Kenny Arnoff (John Mellencamp, Bob Seger).
Everyone involved agrees that the band concept was the most spontaneous and rewarding element of the project. Jeff Koz played many roles during the process and his enthusiasm was evident. "There' s nothing more fun or inspiring than cutting songs with incredible musicians, live! I think we captured some extraordinary performances. As a matter of fact, this was really the first time Dave has 'played with a band' in the studio. We wound up keeping a lot of his first takes recorded live on the basic tracks - they just had a feeling that was difficult to recapture without the synergy of the other musicians."
Off The Beaten Path will take the listener on a "live" musical journey from the feel good, free-flowing style of Don't Look Back, to the melodic and mesmerizing I 'm Ready, to the romantic Let Me Count The Ways - featuring the unmistakable vocal stylings of Stevie Nicks. Experiencing a gamut of emotions along the way, the listener will want to get up and dance to Wake Up Call and the very funky Flat Feet and may feel like holding someone close during Follow Me Home. You will feel the need to be quietly thoughtful for Awakenings, and the very sexy Under The Spell Of The Moon is sure to ignite late night passion.
Daring to leave no aspect of the soul untouched, Koz urges the listener to sway softly on Lullaby For A Rainy Night and then swing into Leave The Light On, showcasing the sax and guitar with a little "doo wop" . Also provided is some southern comfort on My Back Porch, complete with harmonica and washboard.
Nowhere is the vulnerability and open-hearted sincerity of Dave Koz more evident than on the inspired That's The Way I Feel About You, as he makes his vocal debut, and on the haunting Remembrance, composed in Bali, while on a writing retreat.
Co-composer, Lorber, sums it up this way: "It takes a lot of guts to stake out new territory, but Dave is passionate and totally motivated by his love for music - he's doing it all from his heart."
To long-time Dave Koz fans his third release will be a most welcome gift from the emotionally present artist they have come to admire. For his more recent followers, it will be an introduction to the very best of Dave Koz, making his saxophone "the voice for people to really hear - unmasked and unfiltered, honest and vulnerable". And to those who contend that instrumentals have no place in their music library ... well ... they may just find themselves joining Dave Koz . . . Off The Beaten Path.