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MUSIC Dave Koz on marriage equality, Stevie Nicks and his new CD
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2015-07-21

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In the quarter-century since releasing his first album, out saxophonist has been nominated for nine Grammys, gotten a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and collaborated with a ton of well-known artists ( including Stevie Wonder, India.Arie and Toby Keith ).

Koz recently talked with Windy City Times about his upcoming CD, Collaborations 25th Anniversary Collection ( out July 31 ), as well as a July 25 show at Horseshoe Casino and the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.

Windy City Times: Nice talking with you again, Dave. I told someone you're one of the longer relationships in my life.

Dave Koz: Well, that's very nice of you to say. I appreciate that. You're probably one of the longer relationships I've had in my life, too. We have to stop meeting like this. Are you going to be able to come to my show [at Horseshoe Casino]?

WCT: Unfortunately, I won't be able to. You usually perform in Chicago on your tours. It's interesting that there isn't one here this time.

DK: It depends on the promoter and the venue. Last year, we played in Ravinia, which was great. This year, it was the casino that wanted us. The one we're consistently at is The Chicago Theatre at Christmastime; we've played there 18 years.

I do love that area. Chicago's been a place where we've played for so many years. We are out celebrating 25 years—it's hard for me to imagine. If you would've told me 25 years ago that I'd still be out and about playing, I wouldn't have been the first to believe you. As we all know, the music world is very fickle.

I love doing what I do, and I love collaborating. My new CD highlights those amazing artists I've had a chance to learn from. I looked back over the years and wondered what the consistent thread has been through all of this work—and that was the key. The key to success, for me, is not being afraid to go into uncharted territory. I've made the best music when I'm with people who are the biggest head-scratchers. I love to stretch myself, and to be challenged and inspired.

If left to my own devices, it'd be the same song and the same melody over and over. [Laughs]

WCT: You have done so many collaborations over the years. How do you whittle them down [to one CD]?

DK: Yeah—it's a combination of a lot of different talent from a lot of different pools. Some of the things I'm most proud of are things I did for other artists on their albums. There's this one track that I did with David Benoit that's a version of "Linus and Lucy." It's from an obscure album that [marked] the 40th anniversary of the Peanuts Christmas special. A lot of my fans didn't even know it existed—but I'm very proud of it.

The Barry Manilow track ["Apartment 2G: I Hear Her Playing Music"] is this very obscure track on one of his albums, but it was the first time we'd ever met. The song actually has my name in the lyrics! When I went to the studio to work with him, this icon says, "The song's about this woman in her apartment late at night, and she's listening to music. The payoff is that she's listening to you—and I've written you into the lyrics." I'm, like, "Are you out of your mind?" [Interviewer laughs.] So those are the types of things—they're not necessarily the biggest hits but I'm so proud of them.

There's also Stevie Nicks [in "Let Me Count the Ways"]. She's been a friend for a long time, but to get a superstar like that to sing on my album was a big coup. I remember the day—March 26, 1996—and she was scheduled to come at eight in the evening; she got there at 11 p.m. I was so happy she was there; this was a true rock star. So she was there for a half-hour—and then she disappears! Thirty minutes later, at the stroke of midnight, she walks back into the studio with a cake and candles—because it was my birthday at the stroke of midnight. She then sang "Happy Birthday" to me—which will go down as the best rendition of that song ever. Then, in 10 minutes flat, she did the vocal to the song.

WCT: When you talked about your name being in the lyrics to Barry Manilow's song, I thought of Billie Jean King talking [on the show In Depth with Graham Bensinger] about how Elton John wrote "Philadelphia Freedom" for her. Your reactions seem quite similar—like, "Are you kidding me?"

DK: Yeah—you just don't expect those kinds of things. With Barry, that was 15 years ago, and we've become great friends. He asked me to open his shows earlier this year for his latest tour. I opened up 28 of those shows, including the United Center in Chicago on Valentine's Day. That's been a wonderful relationship.

WCT: It's nice to hear about musicians collaborating and getting along. Sometimes, it seems all we hear about are clashes and feuds.

DK: With anyone who's been around for a while, that just seems to go away. Someone who wants a long-term professional career will realize that it's very important to make friends.

WCT: By the way, on this latest CD, my favorite is probably the version of "( Your Love Keeps Lifting Me ) Higher and Higher" [with Kenny Lattimore].

DK: [Laughs] Really? That's [on] the tour for this summer. I feel very strongly about this group of musicians. Trumpet player Rick Braun has been a great friend of mine; we've collaborated a tremendous amount over the years. The guy who sings it is Kenny Lattimore—just the most talented musician, and so handsome. I'm very happy to hear you like it.

WCT: The title of your CD is Collaborations. Who is your dream collaborator?

DK: A good question. I would say that I've been well-served at this bar [laughs]—but not overserved. There are people, though, like Elton John—I've met him, but have never made music with him; he's one of my biggest icons. The same goes for Billy Joel; I've never made music with him. Those are probably my top [two]. But there are the young artists like Frank Ocean, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Janelle Monae and Alicia Keys. I would love to hook up with Alicia.

WCT: Switching gears, what was your reaction when you heard about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality?

DK: Well, I want to say that I was blown away and surprised, and never thought this would happen—but the truth is that I saw this coming a long time ago, that it was inevitable. Still, having said that, I remember where I was. I was up north, and someone texted me the news. I was overcome with gratitude to all the different players who had a hand in making this happen over the years. I look back at the 2008 situation [with Prop 8] as the big pushing-off point, even though things were happening before that. When I heard, it was still one of the single most exciting things I've experienced over the years.

The timing was unbelievable. I was in the Bay Area that weekend; it was probably my first Pride parade in 20 years—but I went that weekend. I said, "I don't want to miss this." It was—wow! It was electric, amazing. When you have something in the game—I came out in 2004—that what makes it [so special].

We don't have a Martin Luther King, per se, who leads this whole group; talk about diversity: L, G, B and T. It's very hard to imagine one person representing our block of people. Everybody has contributed, in their own way, to what's happened. I'm grateful for that.

WCT: By the way, is your wine still available at California Pizza Kitchen?

DK: Yes, it is! It's on the menu now, which is a big deal.

Visit DaveKoz.com . For tickets to his show, see www.caesars.com/horseshoe-hammond/shows .


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