By MIKE CHAIKEN
Contemporary jazz sax player Dave Koz is celebrating 25 years of making music this year.
And along that entertainment journey, he has established a successful recording career. His summer tours are favorites across the country. His Christmas shows have delighted scores of fans through the years. He has an annual sea cruise. And so on and so on.
So you would think that after all these years, and after all of these opportunities to play his sax, Dave would have nothing left to learn in terms of entertaining an audience.
Not so, said Dave, in a phone interview from his home in California.
And right now, he said he’s learning from a master… the legendary Barry Manilow. Dave was handpicked by Manilow to open the singer-songwriter-entertainer’s farewell “One Last Time!” tour. The tour arrives at The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Saturday.
“It’s been going great,” said Dave of the tour with Manilow, which was about eight dates into the itinerary when the sax player was interviewed. “I love him. I’ve known him a long time.”
Dave has great respect for Manilow as a musician, artist, and an entertainer.
“It’s like being invited to a master class,” said Dave of the tour. “He knows exactly what he’s doing (to capture the audience’s attention)… It’s like working alongside of a master painter.” Each night, Dave said he just absorbs everything he can be watching Manilow take the stage.
As a fan, Dave said he loves Manilow for his musicality. “He doesn’t get enough credit,” said Dave. “He’s an unbelievable musician… The architecture is very deep.” Yes, he’s had hits, said Dave. “But there’s a true musician behind it all.
That’s why he’s stayed omnipresent. There’s great depth to his work. It’s not bubblegum music.”
“He’s so committed to what he’s doing,” said Dave of Manilow. “He really cares.” And audiences can sense that, added Dave.
The opening slot places Dave in an unusual spot. Typically, he’s the headliner. But he said he’s excited about the opportunity the tour presents.
“Most people don’t know me,” said Dave of the Manilow audience. They are at the show to see Manilow. And when Dave takes the stage, he knows they’re thinking, “Who are you, and where’s Barry?’”
“It’s great for me after 25 years to still have to prove myself,” said Dave. Hopefully, he said, after 30 minutes on stage, he’s won over a score of new fans. “That’s exciting, taking an audience on a journey to like us.”
As an opener, Dave has to shape a set list that fits in a tight 30 minutes. So, he said, he has to pick songs that serve two different purposes. He has to select songs that define who he is as an entertainer. And most importantly, he has to prime the audience for Manilow to take the stage.
So his set list, said Dave, is fun and energetic… and demonstrates a high level of musicianship. Manilow’s audience “appreciates good music,” said Dave.
One of the songs Dave has included in his set is the song, “Let It Go,” from the soundtrack to “Frozen.” The song has been performed by a lot of fabulous vocalists. But there aren’t too many instrumental versions of the song.
“My nieces forced my hand,” said Dave as to why he decided to perform the song.
“I saw the movie,” said Dave. “And I loved the music.”
His nieces then asked him to perform their favorite song, “Let It Go.” Dave said he was reluctant at first, but once he took the time, he realized the power behind the song and the amazing melody it possessed. He played “Let It Go” during a television performance and then posted the performance on the website. “It just exploded,” said Dave.
When he is done with the Manilow tour, Dave will be switching gears to prepare for his annual summer tour, where he will be back in his familiar role as headliner. “I have a wonderful tour planned,” said Dave.
Given it’s his 25th anniversary of making music, Dave said he’s reuniting with some of his favorite performers. These include trumpeter Rick Braun and R&B singer Kenny Lattimore.
Also to commemorate his 25th anniversary, Dave is pulling together a special CD compiling some of his favorite recorded collaborations through the years. They’re not necessarily his biggest hits, but they will be the ones he is most proud of. This includes songs he recorded with Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, and Luther Vandross. Additionally, his rendition of “Frozen” will be included on the CD as well.
Dave Koz opens for Barry Manilow on Saturday, March 28 at 8 p.m. at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
By MIKE CHAIKEN