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.

Dave's latest project "A New Day" is filled with an array of musical experiences. Each song conveys a memorable story both rhythmically and emotionally. 

Special guests on the album include Brian McKnight, Antwaun Stanley of Vulfpeck, Meshell Ndegeocello, David Sanborn, Bob JamesPaul Jackson, Jr., Marc Antoine, Rick Braun, Jeff Lorber and Chris "Big Dog" Davis.

Please welcome Dave Koz.

Photo: Colin Peck

Jazz Monthly: Congratulations on your latest Album " A New Day." This is an exceptional Project that opens up countless emotions throughout the album. What was your vision behind "A New Day”?

Dave Koz: Thanks for the kind words, Joe…when the pandemic hit, I kind of knew intuitively what I needed to do. Music has always been my go-to in times of great strife in my own life, so I thought this might be a good thing to do for others at this incredibly difficult time for all of us. It was a good feeling for me (and all that came forth to help me realize this album) to make some music this time out, with the sole purpose of lifting up folks who’ve been so battered this year. It gave us a mission…and maybe more importantly, something to DO, since we weren’t out there doing what we normally do!

JM: The performances are incredibly "Live" and the production on this Project is superb. Given the trying times from the Pandemic, what was the production process for "A New Day.”

DK: This was my first ever (and hopefully last!) completely virtual album. Even many of the songs were written virtually…no one was in the same room ever. And it’s ironic, that out of this novel approach, a surprisingly cohesive album came out of it. Not sure exactly how that happened…but I am grateful it did. It helped that all these amazing musicians and guest artists happened to be home--so everyone was available. And then, because we’d all been sidelined from the pandemic, everyone had this amazing pent-up musical energy they couldn’t wait to share. Whether it was a drum track or guitar track, or Sanborn’s alto sax…all the tracks just exploded with this palpable energy. It came together pretty easily, I gotta say!

JM: The opening track "Summertime in NYC" immediately gives one a good feeling and an upbeat vibe for the day. How did this song originate?

DK: I was actually in NY writing that song with my longtime collaborators Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken—I think it was March 14th—the day the world was closing in on all of us…the NBA canceled it’s season, Broadway announced it’s closing, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson came out as positive for Covid—it was the day I think most Americans will remember the reality of the situation setting in for the first time. While the world outside was changing before our very eyes making everyone super scared and unsure, inside the studio we called upon our feel-good musical heroes like EWF and Bill Withers for the inspiration to write a song that would counter all those negative emotions. My cowriters and I just wanted to make people feel good. We then sent the track to Brian McKnight who took the vibe to another whole level, and even had Ralph Johnson (of EWF) play on the track too, giving it that very special 'seal of approval'. It’s amazing when you listen to the song, realizing it was written on one of the scariest and most terrible days of this or any year. I am continually humbled and amazed by music’s ability to soothe the soul, even at perhaps the bleakest of times.

JM: You've been releasing a single track each week prior to the full album release. What is the story behind the releases?

DK: Thankfully, in the modern digital music business we’re not bound by any formal rules—and this album is self-released, so additionally there was no record company putting the brakes on. In this crazy weird year, I just thought it might be fun to give fans a real taste of A LOT of the new music before the full album release, as I felt people (especially now) would enjoy looking forward to a weekly campaign with new music every Friday. We came up with the idea of “Colors Of A New Day”, whereby the track of the week was released along with a matching color. People got really into it, even posting photos of themselves in the colors. I don’t know if this would’ve worked any other year…but in 2020, it seemed like a fun thing to try—and it worked! This is the first album of original material I’ve released in 10 years, so it was really cool to be able to expose a ton of this new music to folks, as opposed to just having one radio single.

Photo: Colin Peck

JM: We can talk about every song from "A New Day" because each track has a beautiful story to tell, but I do want to talk about the cover you decided to do on this Project. Your rendition of "Yesterday" by the Beatles really captured a very intimate moment on the album. An introduction of some additional chord progressions to the tune capped a very sensuous arrangement and performance. What is this song about to you and why did you add it to the Project?

DK: I’ve always loved that song. It’s a gut-wrenchingly gorgeous melody, and it sits SO perfect on the alto. But I’d never recorded it before—and I wasn’t looking to do any covers on this album. But then I heard the Beatles’ version on the radio one day…and through the lens of Covid-19, the melody and lyrics really carried a different message. It was prophetic, really. How much our lives had truly changed since just yesterday. The more I thought about it, the more I began to think that this was perhaps a KEY message to include in the narrative of this album. A reminder, if you will, about how innocent we all were, and how much we all long for that time, before all of this happened. I went to an amazingly talented singer/producer named Matt Cusson who came up with the extremely novel and cool approach for this rendition, complete with like 100 vocal harmony tracks. We then had Meshell Ndegeocello add bass and her exquisite performance took the track to another whole level. Her bass playing is pure genius, SO much personality! I truly believe we are going to a ’new day’ when this pandemic is behind us. But in order to get there, we have to be cognizant of where we were ‘yesterday’ as well, to inform the next phase of our lives.

JM: There is an amusing story circulating around the track "Long Goodbyes" featuring Bob James. What happened regarding this song?

DK: I had just written the melody of that song (but not named it yet) when I came back to LA from NYC. I was asked by a friend to play a melody of mine acapella for her website, where she was adding videos of artists in the early days of the quarantine to help entertain jazz fans. I sent it off, and that was it. Two weeks later she sent me a video of Bob James doing the same thing. Only issue was…he played MY song, claiming he had just written it…he said it didn’t even have a name yet. His speech before the song was almost exactly mine. So, I am watching this video, kinda getting a little upset—cus here’s one of my main music idols, stealing my song!! What I didn’t know, is that Mr. James is quite the practical joker. As soon as he finished, he copped to it…and said he couldn’t keep the charade up—he gave me credit, and said “he wished that song was mine”. I was cracking up…too funny! I immediately called Bob and read him the riot act. But not before telling him he now HAS to play on the record of this song!! He graciously agreed, and turned in an unbelievably elegant performance, easily making it one of my favorite duets EVER. I love Bob James. Now more than ever.

JM: Dave, your melodies attract all ages worldwide and you have consistently written and performed top charting songs for many years. Where do you get your inspirations? Do you have a specific process when it comes to your songwriting?

DK: You’d be stunned to know how many terrible ideas I have before one good one comes through! I do love writing music, and I am very focused on melody for my songwriting. But that doesn’t mean the good ones come all that often. Inspiration can strike anywhere…in the car, while asleep, in the shower…I usually am inspired by other forms of art and greatness in the world when I’m lucky enough to have my eyes open wide enough to see it. I also am a big fan of collaborating with other songwriters, who push and pull me in to new arenas I wouldn’t normally go on my own.

JM: What was the most gratifying about "A New Day? The most challenging? 

DK: Most gratifying: that we actually were able to pull it off! In the strangest situation ever! The most challenging? Yeah, trying to make an album in the worst global pandemic to come in generations!

JM: Covid-19 has been devastating to all. Hopefully we can slowly move forward with caution. Like most businesses, the music business has been hit very hard, especially performance venues, clubs and cruises. What are your thoughts and plans moving forward? 

DK: We not only had to cancel all touring, but two cruises as well. It’s been very tough. I think the country has paid a price for not having ANY concerts take place. Of course, it wasn’t possible this year for obvious reasons…but we as human beings missed out on hearing live music this year, and I think that has taken a toll on our nerves. It’s pinched our capacity for kindness and tolerance of others. I am now even more in awe of live music shows’ ability to bring people together. It’s not the same when you watch music on your tv or computer…or listen to songs on your device. Sharing space and listening to live music with others that aren’t the same as you can have an amazing effect on human beings—I truly believe that much of the disunity we see in our country today is directly related to that. I know that may be a stretch, but I do think it has some effect. Maybe bigger than anyone realizes. For that reason and a million more, I truly hope and pray we can get back to doing what we do, and SOON. The world may depend on it!!

JM: "A New Day" will be released exactly 30 years to the week after your very first album. What an amazing achievement! What's been the most fulfilling part of this journey? The most surprising?

DK: I’d say making it to a 30th anniversary in such a fickle and crazy business is at once the most fulfilling AND the most surprising. I never thought this would be my life, but I am eternally grateful for it, and have SO many to thank who’ve given so much to me along the way. If it weren’t for Bobby Caldwell and Jeff Lorber (two people who saw something in me that even I didn’t know was there), I surely wouldn’t be here today. Bruce Lundvall, the late great record-man who signed me to Capitol Records in the late 80s. There’ve been so many. Most of all though, I am filled with gratitude to the supporters of my music all over the world who’ve given me this ‘magic carpet ride’ of a career. I am speechless. And while if it ended tomorrow I’d be truly thankful, I am also very excited about continuing forward, hoping to find new ways of expressing myself in these very complex times we live.